The men’s tennis team’s first Atlantic 10 Conference match of the year came down to freshman Nicolas Paulus.
When he won his final point, ending a match that lasted over two hours and was played on three different courts, he pumped his fist and smiled at his teammates, who were watching from the next court over.
Paulus’ 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Richmond senior Aaron Wicker clinched a 4-3 victory for the Owls (2-0, 1-0 A-10) over the Spiders (2-3, 1-0 A-10) on Saturday morning at Legacy Tennis Center. The match was the only one to go to a third set, and had to keep moving courts to make room for a youth tennis class.
“Nicolas played well,” coach Steve Mauro said. ”It’s tough being a freshman on center stage like that. Overall, he did a good job. I know he’s actually capable of playing even better than that, so I expect even more out of him for the next match.”
The day started with doubles matches. In the first flight, senior captain Kacper Rams and freshman Santiago Canete defeated senior Sebastian Fauchet and Wicker 8-4. In the second flight, Paulus and sophomore Hernan Vasconez lost to senior Jesse Feder and sophomore Paul Nahon 8-5. In the third flight, sophomore Kristian Marquart and freshman Sam Rundle beat redshirt sophomore Ethan Dunbar and sophomore Dylan Trent 8-4.
“It was good to win the first conference match,” Rundle said. “They put a lot of pressure on us, and it was good to win the doubles point.”
In singles, Rams played in the first flight, and lost 6-3, 7-5 to Dunbar. Freshman Hicham Belkssir lost to Feder 6-1, 7-5 in the second flight.
“The first set, I wasn’t that good,” Belkssir said. “I didn’t have the right strategy. Then when he won 6-1, Coach came to me and talked to me a little bit. I was up 5-3 in the second set, and I just lost control.”
In the third flight, Marquart won 6-2, 6-3 over Nahon. In the fourth flight, Canete defeated Trent 6-2, 6-3. Vasconez lost in the sixth flight 6-1, 6-3. All of these matches ended more than a half hour before Paulus’, so the team gathered to watch the rest of the final match together.
“We won as a team, which was the most important thing,” Marquart said. “I have never felt such anxiety. This is my third semester, I have never had such a match. The whole team was behind Nicolas. Even in my match, I had so much support.”
“It’s very good for us,” Mauro said. “It’s only our second match. We’re still trying to prepare for the season. It was early to play such a tough opponent, but I think the guys did a good job today.”
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.