The College of Staten Island men’s tennis squad finalized their 2011 trek through Orlando, Florida, with a doubleheader split this afternoon, defeating North Central College, 5-4, before falling to Grinnell College, 7-2.  The split today brings the Dolphins to 3-3 overall to start the 2011 campaign, earning a 1-3 record while on the Florida swing.
In the opener, CSI battled the Cardinals of North Central, who blanked the Dolphins, 9-0, a year ago in the Florida sun.  Play started with singles, and from the outset, it was obvious that the two teams were paired up nicely, and that the match would most likely come right down to the wire.  True to form, the two teams battled like prize-fighters, each hitting the other with big wins.
After NC’s Josh Clay defeated CSI’s Gary Ambartsumov to start things off in the five spot, CSI fired back with Patrick Thomas’ 6-4, 6-2, victory over Chris Bennorth at No. 2.  The tie didn’t last long, as the Cardinals went right back on top with Eric McKee’s winner over Riad Hamai at No. 3, 6-3, 6-1.  From there, play intensified and the focus was then on Masaru Takaki’s hard-fought victory at No. 4 over NC’s Boris Kamper.  Takaki took the first set 6-4, then broke Kamper late in set number two to win a 7-5 affair putting CSI right back into the thick of things.
At No. 1, Nicholas Zikos fought valiantly, but fell victim to the power-hitting Matt Boguslawski, 6-4, 6-3, forcing all eyes to concentrate at the No. 6 flight where CSI’s Daniel Ursomanno was locked in a war with NC’s Andrew McKinley.  McKinley battled from behind to overtake Ursomanno, 7-5, in the opening set, but Ursomanno blazed by McKinley, 6-2, in the second to set up a 10-point super-tiebreaker.  Needing Ursomanno’s win desperately, both teams rallied around their player, but Ursomanno broke open a 3-2 game by powering to a 10-3 win, evening things up after singles, 3-3.
Attention then turned to doubles, and both teams knew that taking two out of three would clinch the match.  That said, CSI blitzed by NC at third doubles, with the team of Georgio Dano and Ursomanno taking an 8-2 effort over Bennorth and Eric Mutka.  CSI had their first lead of the game but it too was short-lived, as the Cardinals struck again at No. 1, where Boguslawski and Adam Ciccone powered to an 8-5 win over Zikos and Thomas.  Again, both teams rallied around one, winner-take-all, court.  At No. 2 Doubles, the CSI team of Joe Taranto and Riad Hamai were up 7-3 over McKee and Kampel, but the Cardinals picked up momentum and blazed to three straight points to make it 7-6.  Finally, with Taranto on serve, Riad Hamai blasted a pair of strokes down both the right and left lines to lead CSI to an 8-6 win, granting the team their first win of the Florida trip.
“I’m really proud of our effort from top to bottom against a very good team like North Central,” said Head Coach Paul Ricciardi.  “Using nearly our entire lineup, we fought and left everything on the court.  It seemed like the bigger the moment was, the more we embraced it and overcame the adversity.”
The Dolphins then had a three-hour window before their next match against national-power Grinnell College, and there, CSI was not as fortunate, stumbling to a 7-2 loss.
CSI got a nice lift late into doubles action.  After the Dolphins’ first two doubles flights dropped their matches, the team of Dano and Ursomanno won their second match of the afternoon, fighting off a comeback by Grinnell’s Ishdan Bhadkamkar and Dylan Gumm, to score an 8-6 win.  Down 2-1 after doubles, CSI felt inspired going into singles, but despite some spirited play, the Dolphins would ultimately drop five of their six flights.
Zikos, playing at No. 2 in the afternoon matchup, was CSI’s lone winner, scoring a well-earned, 7-5, 6-4, winner over Abe Moore.  Taranto (No. 4) fell 6-4, 6-3, to Ben Flebbe, while Thomas (No. 1), dropped a 6-2, 6-4, decision to Martin Dluhos.
Despite the loss, Ricciardi was happy with the 1-3 Florida swing.
“We had a very demanding schedule and we played very hard from beginning to end and I feel we are leaving Florida a much stronger team than we arrived.”
With the split CSI will travel back to Staten Island with their record leveled at 3-3.  The team sits at 1-0 in conference play and will resume that end of play on Thursday when they host New York City College of Technology at 3:30pm.