(NOTE: AUTHOR GARRET MCDOWELL)
In what many will consider a down year for Mercer tennis by record alone, the Mercer Bears’ men’s tennis squad qualified for the 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament on the final day of competition, defeating in-state rival Kennesaw State. Senior Day was definitely sweet for the Bears. On the women’s side, the season finally ended. A home win against Western Carolina was the last good note for the Bears, as they dropped three straight to end the season.
Men’s Tennis: 9-11,
5-5 Atlantic Sun.
ETSU 6, Mercer 1
It was not a good day for the Bears, as they dropped their third straight conference match, and their fifth on the year. Mercer put themselves into a desperate situation for a playoff berth. ETSU won their ninth match in conference play this year, and the Bucs were simply on fire. Three singles matches were won in the straight sets and the doubles point was only challenged in one match. Guilherme Frias was able to win a thriller in extra sets and David Barton’s winning streak was halted at six games with an extra sets loss. Fernando Armendaris was close, but he was unable to win either of his matches on the day.
Mercer 4, Jack. State 3
Mercer headed to Jacksonville, Ala. to right the ship and they succeed indeed. The close victory really does not do justice to how well the Bears performed across the board. Mercer won the doubles point handily, with none of the six matches going to tiebreakers. Three Bears won their singles matches in straight sets: Peter Tauchner, Evandro Rosindo, and Barton. The three Bears who were unable to grab victory all lost in the super-tiebreaker third set. This important nonconference victory was the first victory since March 19 and the first win over a non-Atlantic Sun opponent since Feb. 23, which was Jacksonville State in Macon. In addition, it was the first time that the Bears beat a team on the road this season that was not from the Atlantic Sun.
Mercer 4, Kenn. State 3
Senior Day saw Mercer win the first four points on the day, clinching not only a win for the home squad but at least one extra game in the conference tournament. The score line does not recognize that Mercer lead 4-0 midway through the day. Nevertheless, Fernando Armendaris had his most meaningful serve of his entire career. With the Bears No. 3 doubles squad having broke serve and gone up 8-7, they led 40-30, and with the Owls having gotten back to back points and about to force a deuce, the senior from Ecuador aced his opponents, giving the Bears something to build their day off. ‘Drama’ would be a good word to describe how the Bears have played this season, and they will carry it into the postseason. Barton, Tauchner and Pierre Tafelski won their singles matches in straight sets, giving Barton his 14th win on the year, with just four losses. He was also 8-1 in conference play this year. Rosindo, Armendaris, and Frias all lost in extra sets, but the match was sealed by the time any of them finished up play.
The men’s tennis team beat Stetson this season 5-2 on March 11, for their first win over the Hatters since 2005.They will face off again on Thursday, April 14 for the right to play No. 1 North Florida in the Semifinals of the conference tournament. With the way the Bears have played in the last week, there is a definite possibility that the Bears could find themselves in the A-Sun final. The tournament will be held in DeLand, Fla. this week.
Women’s Tennis: 4-15,
1-9 Atlantic Sun.
Mercer 5, W. Carolina 2
Mercer won the doubles point, and the Bears picked up four of six singles matchups to win for the second time in three games, which is the first time they’ve won two matches in one week since February. Jennifer Lada, Lucie Payrat and Amanda Bertani won their matches, with Sarah Hanna picking up a point in a match that the Catamounts of Western Carolina did not field a player for. Amalia Bugge and Aurelie de Montjou were both unable to win their singles play.
ETSU 6, Mercer 1
ETSU picked up their ninth win in Atlantic Sun play and the Bears were soundly beaten at home. Only Lucie Payrat had any legitimate success against the Bucs as she won in straight sets. The rest of the Bears lost in straight sets.
Jack. State 4, Mercer 3
Despite splitting Jacksonville State in singles play, the doubles play stopped the Bears from winning their first nonconference game since February. Hanna, Montjou, and Payrat kept them in it, but the rest of the Bears were unable to get a final decisive point.
Kenn. State 4, Mercer 3
The long season finally came to an end against the rival Owls, as the Bears lost Senior Day 4-3. The Owls improved to 18-5 on the year with seven conference wins. The result was closer than the score would indicate for most of the day as Mercer won the last two singles matches. Bugge, Payrat and Montjou could not get any support from the rest of their team. Lucie Payrat won her tenth straight singles match, finishing 14-5 overall, including an 8-2 record in Atlantic Sun play for the 2011 season.