Men’s tennis tops La Salle amid controversy

Coach threatens to not schedule matches against Explorers next year after multiple misconduct penalties.

Aided by unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, the men’s tennis team won its third straight match, defeating La Salle 6-1 in Olney.

The Owls improve to 5-9 (3-3 Atlantic 10 Conference), while the Explorers drop to 7-6 (0-3 A-10).

Several incidents, mostly involving La Salle players, overshadowed the match. La Salle incurred two point penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. There were also multiple comments from La Salle players mocking Temple players for speaking in another language.

“This is the first time we’ve faced a team that acted this way,” coach Steve Mauro said. “We’re used to playing teams that are a little more respectful on the court, so we didn’t appreciate that.”

One match that included a point penalty was the third flight singles match, pitting freshman Nicolas Paulus against junior Chas Berenato. During the second set, the referee told both players so stop talking and focus on playing the match. Berenato, who was serving, yelled out the score, and the official gave him a point penalty. Paulus went on to win the match 6-1, 6-4. After losing, Berenato angrily threw his racquet at the fence.

“The most important stuff is to get calm,” sophomore Kristian Marquart said. “Those ones who get crazy about these kind of points, they start being nervous, and they start making errors. They get too over-motivated. It’s so important for you to stay calm and don’t let yourself get angry and disappointed.”

Marquart’s top flight match against junior Joe LaBate also included a point penalty. At one point, LaBate complained that Marquart was lying about calls, saying what sounded like “he should be deported,” referring to Marquart, who is Russian. The referee threatened to default the match if LaBate did not calm down.

After Marquart won the match 6-0, 6-0, LaBate said something to Marquart during the post-match handshake, causing the referee to give a point penalty to La Salle, taking effect in the second flight match.

“[LaBate] just went crazy,” Marquart said. “He couldn’t behave at all. Even his coach was screaming at him. He got crazy, so he didn’t win one game.”

In last year’s match, Temple defeated La Salle 7-0. Marquart and LaBate played each other in the third flight, with Marquart also winning 6-0, 6-0.

“I played the same guy last year,” Marquart said. “He was losing 6-0, 4-0 against me, and he did the same thing. I remember that so well. It was exactly the same guy, exactly the same match, and exactly the same score.”

“Actually, they improved from last year,” Mauro said, referring to their behavior. “We beat them pretty handily. I don’t know why they were complaining so much.”

Mauro added that he would not schedule a match between the two teams next year.

“It’s unfortunate, because I’d like to keep the rivalry going with them, but sportsmanship is a higher knot on our agenda,” Mauro said. “We look for teams who are sportsmen.”

Lost in the mess of penalties was that Marquart got the first top flight singles win for Temple all season.

“I knew that before the match, and I knew that today was a pretty good chance to do it,” Marquart said. “I feel good. We are improving every match and every practice. I felt confident.”

In the second flight, sophomore Hernan Vasconez lost 6-4, 3-6 (10-2) to sophomore De’Sean Fennell. Freshman Santiago Canete defeated senior Trevor Donovan 6-3, 6-2 in flight four.

Freshman Hicham Belkssir won 6-1, 6-3 against sophomore Dale Fetterman in flight five. Freshman Sam Rundle triumphed 6-1, 6-0 against sophomore Robert Kasinow in the sixth flight.

“Sam is improving, he’s getting more steady,” Mauro said. “We’re really happy that he’s been a great addition to our team.”

In doubles, Belkssir and Vasconez lost 8-4 to Fennell and Donovan in the first flight. In flight two, Marquart and Rundle defeated Berenato and LaBate 8-6. Canete and Paulus won 8-3 against sophomore Thomas MacLeod and senior Hunter Selman 8-4.

“I think we’ve made some great improvements,” Mauro said. “This last part of the season, guys are starting to mature, getting used to the college game. We have four matches left, we should win all four of them.”

Evan Cross can be reached at or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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