DURHAM, N.C. – The Elon University men’s tennis team put up a tough battle in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship today, May 10, but the Phoenix ultimately fell to second-seeded Tennessee, 4-1, at the Ambler Tennis Center on the campus of Duke University.
“I’m very proud of this team and the way they fought in this match after being down 3-0 and seeing all the guys battle their way almost all the way back,” said Elon head coach Michael Leonard. “We’ll look back with positive thoughts about this season. We did some tremendous things. We won the conference. We had the program’s highest ranking ever. We beat a Top 10 team in Duke. I’m really proud of them.”
Elon’s season comes to an end after posting a 19-5 mark, winning the Southern Conference regular season title and the conference tournament title and earning the highest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national ranking in program history in March when the team reached No. 39 in the country.
Tennessee jumped on Elon quickly in doubles to start the match, as the Vols duo of Andrew Dromsky and Jarryd Chaplin handled Robert Lindgren and Brian Kowalski on court No. 2 to get Tennessee halfway to the doubles point.
Soon after, Brandon Fickey and Bartosz Sawicki finished off the doubles point with an 8-5 win over Stefan Fortmann and Juan Madrid on court No. 3. The loss is the first for Fortmann and Madrid together since their first match of the season on February 28 against Brown. It also snaps a 13-match winning streak for the duo.
Though it did not finish, Cameron Silverman and Jordan Kaufman took on Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese, the second-ranked pairing in the nation, on court No. 1. The Elon duo was trailing Libietis and Reese 6-4 when the match was finished.
As the match turned to singles, Tennessee went up 2-0 with Libietis, the 34th-ranked player in the country, making quick work of Fortmann on court No. 2. The loss is Fortmann’s first defeat since February 24 against UNC Wilmington, a span that saw the junior from Wartburg, South Africa, win 14 matches in a row.
Tennessee went up 3-0 shortly after with Chaplin topping Lindgren on court No. 3, 6-3, 6-2. After dropping the first set, Lindgren battled Chaplin early on in the second set before running out of gas.
Elon’s lone point came in the form of Kaufman picking up a come-from-behind victory on court No. 5 over Dromsky. The junior dropped the first set before coming back with multiple key breaks to win the match, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
To close out the match, Fickey topped Kowalski 6-3, 7-6 in a tiebreaker after a tightly contested second set. Kowalski lost the tiebreaker 7-3.
Though the Phoenix fell 4-1, Elon fought in multiple tight contests that didn’t reflect on the scoreboard.
In a battle of ranked opponents, Silverman, the 36th-ranked player in the country, battled Reese, the No. 27 player in the nation, and fought back and forth throughout the match. Silverman lost the first set 7-6 in a tiebreaker, then was up 6-5 in the second set when the match was finished because of Tennessee’s victory.
“Cameron has been a joy to coach,” Leonard said. “He’s going to go down as one of the greatest tennis players to play at Elon and I’m proud to see where he started to where he is now as a person and as a player.”
Because of the unfinished result, Silverman still sits at 62 career singles matches throughout his Elon career. That mark is two matches from tying former standout Damon Gooch for the program record. The back-to-back SoCon Player of the Year has at least one more match at Elon, as Silverman earned a bid to the NCAA Singles Championship that will start on May 21 in Athens, Ga. Silverman will learn his draw the day before the tournament on May 20.
On court No. 6, Ismael Sanchez Delfin struggled in the first set before dominating in the second set to force a decisive third set, but the match was called due to Tennessee winning.