In a match befitting of the CUNYAC Final itself, the College of Staten Island men’s tennis team saw its season end at the hands of Hunter College, falling to the defending champs by a 5-4 count in the 2011 CUNYAC Postseason Championship Semifinals played this evening at the National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York. The Dolphins’ season finalizes at 16-5, as CSI saw its 11-game win skein snapped. The Hawks advanced to 10-4 overall, and will face Baruch College in the CUNYAC Final on Thursday.
In a sign that the match would be close the entire way, three spirited doubles flights introduced the sides, with CSI taking a 2-1 lead. The CSI duo of Masaru Takaki and Georgio Dano were first to strike, putting away the Hunter tandem of Thomas Lin and Mark Goldfinger, by an 8-2 count. Hunter, however, answered right back, as their No. 1 team of Yevgeny Perepelov and Luis Quintero topped the CSI team of Nick Zikos and Patrick Thomas, 8-4.
In a very important No. 2 Doubles flight, CSI got a big push they needed, as Joseph Taranto and Riad Hamai scored a decisive, 8-4, win over Arthur Kapetanakis and Roy Forberg, putting the Dolphins up 2-1.
CSI needed to split the six singles flights to win, while Hunter needed four of six, and the two teams would fight to the bitter end to get the result in a match that took over three and a half hours to settle in total.
CSI got on the board first, as Takaki in the No. 5 spot made short work of Lin, 6-0, 6-2, to give CSI a critical 3-1 advantage. But no sooner could CSI celebrate than Hunter would rip off the next two flights within minutes of each other. At No. 2, Quintero stormed passed CSI’s Thomas, 6-2, 6-1, while at the top-spot, Perepelov managed Zikos in a 6-1, 6-4, decision. That left three remaining flights with the teams deadlocked at 3-3.
The Dolphins again took the lead, this team with a Dano winner at No. 6. The graduate student scored an impressive 6-3, 6-4, win over Goldfinger. That turned the attention to two remaining flights, and it is here where Hunter was able to clinch. Despite elevated play in the second set, CSI’s Hamai lost in straight sets to Forberg, 6-1, 7-5. Meanwhile, a war broke out at No. 4, where CSI’s Taranto was locked with Hunter’s Kapetanakis.
Kapetanakis took the first set rather easily at 6-2, but sensing some urgency, Taranto raised the game, scoring a 6-3 win to force a third-set tiebreak. The two powered to points in the early stages, with Taranto knotting things up at 3-3, but the Hunter senior had other plans, scoring his fourth point and then broke Taranto’s serve to take a 5-3 lead. Kapetanakis didn’t miss a beat, winning his point on serve to give Hunter its first lead of the match and the win at 5-4.
Head Coach Paul Ricciardi was disappointed with the loss, but not the effort from his team.
“Focus and heart weren’t an issue tonight as we had it all along,” he said. “We played a very good match and I couldn’t be prouder of how we handled ourselves. You have to give Hunter a lot of credit. They have a very talented team and tonight they just came out on top. It could have gone either way.”
For the Dolphins the result is bittersweet. The team won a program-best 16 matches in 2011, and they finished undefeated in the month of April (10-0). Still, after a pair of Regular Season titles in 2009 & 2010 and a higher seed than the Hawks in 2011, the Dolphins fell just shy of an NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament automatic berth.
“Our goal all year was to win a championship,” said Ricciardi, “We never let our success in the regular season deter us from that goal. We have a great group of guys who banded together all year to make the entire season special. It’s disappointing to lose, but I know we left it all out on the court.”