Tennis begins play at ITAs

Sophomores Hicham Belkssir and Sam Rundle opened up the competiton with a pair of wins.

Six men’s tennis players started off the day with hopes of advancing to the singles main draw of the ITAs in Virginia. Half -way through the singles qualifying draws, two players still had a chance.

Sophomores Hicham Belkssir and Sam Rundle opened up the competiton with a pair of wins in the round of 32. Belkssir easily bypassed St. Joseph’s Dan Barrus in a 6-1, 6-0 decision. In the next round, Belkssir took on Blake Daniel’s of Navy, where he dropped the first set falling 6-2. In the second set, Belkssir bounced back but Daniel was able to hold him off in a close 7-5 score, ending his hopes of playing in the main draw. Rundle faced off against Penn State’s Chris Young, where he was able to secure a 6-4, 6-3 win advancing him to the round of 16. Rundle then took on Virginia Tech’s own Nic Wilson, where he lost the first set in a 6-3 decision. In the second set, Rundle was unable to get over the hump as he fell to the identical score of 6-3.

Sophomore Nicolas Paulus earned a bye in the opening round but later squared off against Penn State’s David Kohan in the round of 16. After losing in the first set, 6-3, Paulus reversed the score in the second set, winning in a  6-3 decision and forcing a tiebreaker. Kohan was able to hold his ground, however, defeating Paulus with a score of 6-4, winning the match.

“We won some matches but we lost some close matches,” coach Steve Mauro. said. “In particular, Hicham played a really close match as did Sam Rundle against Penn State. Nicolas also had a good first round, actually he lost in the second round of qualifying, but it could have gone either way.”

Freshman Vineet Naran,  sophomore Maros Januvka and junior Hernan Vasconez all lost in the round of 32. Naran squared off against UMBC’s Eliot Loubatie losing the match 6-2, 6-3. Januvka dropped a 6-2, 6-0 match against LW’s Steed Johnson, while Vasconez had a tight first set against Noah Fenton 6-7(4) but Fenton won the remaining two sets and winning the match 6-4, 6-0.

Friday morning the four doubles teams will take to the court to begin their journey in the ITA’s. Rundle will team up with Naran to take of Duquesne’s Mehdi Mekaoui and Harry Walshe. Kristian Marquart and Belkssir will face the pair from Old Dominion Jonas Kuwert and Zvonimir Podvinski. The duo of Paulus and Canete will go up against Biyik Akinshemoyin and Eliot Loubatie of UMBC. Finally, Januvka and Vasconez will go head to head with another tandem from UMBC, Kamel Patel and Kevin Hsieh.

Friday will also begin the opening round of the singles main draw, where junior Kristian Marquart and sophomore Santiago Canete will take to the court for the first time.

“We are looking forward to them doing good things,” Mauro said. ” I expect the rest of the guys to do well and continue with the success that we have had this fall.”

Danielle Nelson can be reached at or on Twitter @Dan_Nels.

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