Rookies Rally to Lift Waves to 4-3 Win at BYU
March 29, 2014
PROVO, Utah – Competing without four lineup regulars – including the entire top half of the singles lineup – the Pepperdine men’s tennis team was left with five freshmen and two juniors to battle with BYU today on the road. The Waves, with just one returning student-athlete available, proved up to the challenge, winning the doubles point in comeback fashion before Alexander Solonin clinched the dual 4-3 in the third set tiebreaker.
“Today was one of my proudest moments as a coach,” said Adam Steinberg, now in his 12th season with the Waves. “The guys overcame a lot, playing in a tough environment and a tough place to play. They did such an incredible job.”
Pepperdine debuted with an entirely new doubles lineup headlined by junior newcomer Rakshay Thakkar (Pune, India/St. Vincent’s HS) and Tom Hill (Birmingham, England/K12 International Academy) at No. 1.
Prior to today, Thakkar had never played above the No. 3 spot in the lineup and never alongside Hill. Hill typically plays doubles at No. 2, but both of his regular doubles partners were absent today.
Holding down No. 3 was Russell Josh Evangelista (Almere, Netherlands/Calandlyceum) and Solonin (Tarzana, Calif./Thousand Oaks HS), both making their debut in the doubles lineup after going 1-1 together in the fall.
Despite their inexperience, Evangelista and Solonin were solid at No. 3 and easily topped Sterling Galli and Nikki Rae, 8-3.
Giannini and Menichella rallied back from a 1-5 deficit vs. Francis Sargeant and Matthew Pearce, but ultimately suffered a narrow 8-6 loss.
The doubles point came down to Thakkar and Hill at No, 1, who trailed as late as 3-7 while up against Andrey Goryachkov and Robin Pfister. The Waves’ duo stormed back, however, and knotted the contest up at 7-7 to send the match to the tiebreaker. With momentum on their side, Thakkar and Hill won 7-5 to send Pepperdine into singles with a 1-0 lead.
“Rakshay and Tom’s win was huge,” continued Steinberg. “It really gave the guys belief that they could do this.
“They were down match point in doubles and in the deciding singles match, but just kept fighting and fighting,” Steinberg said. "It was truly amazing to see just how hard they fought to get the win.”
Normally in the No. 4 spot in the lineup, Menichella played at No. 1 today in singles for Pepperdine.
The remainder of the lineup, comprised of Hill, Kento Tanaka-Tamaki (Kihei, Hawaii/St. Anthony Junior-Senior HS), Thakkar, Evangelista and Solonin, was relatively inexperienced. Combined, the five were just 6-15 in dual play, mostly from the No. 6 spot in the lineup.
Thakkar, playing at No. 4 vs. Pfister, earned just his second singles victory of the season with a 6-1, 6-4 triumph.
BYU evened the dual score at 2-2 with wins from the No. 2 and No. 3 matches.
Tanaka-Tamaki, the Waves only returner playing, lost 6-3, 6-3 vs. Jeremy Bourgois at No. 3. The junior had never played higher than No. 5 in his three seasons at Pepperdine.
Hill, with the most dual season matches under his belt behind Menichella at eight, suffered a narrow 6-4, 7-5 decision at No. 2.
In the top match, Menichella earned his first win from the No. 1 spot with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Sargeant. The freshman is now 9-8 in dual action this season.
With two matches still in progress, the Waves needed to win just one to seal the deal. Evangelista bounced back from a 6-1 loss in set one vs. Pearce to win the second 6-4. The Cougar’s No. 5 player prevailed in the end, however, and won 6-4 in the third to keep BYU’s hopes alive.
Solonin, just 0-2 in dual play and 3-6 overall prior to today, stepped up when he was needed most. The freshman split sets with Aidan Carrazedo and the two were deadlocked from start to finish in the deciding frame.
Tied at 6-6, Solonin and Carrazedo headed to a tiebreaker to determine the dual. Solonin owned the final points, winning 7-2 to clinch the dual 4-3 for his team.
“Sasha was incredible at the end,” praised Steinberg, “He was cramping the whole third set, but he just powered through. I’m very happy for him.”
The Waves return to Malibu to host Gonzaga (April 4) and Portland (April 5) on the courts of the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center next weekend..
Pepperdine vs Brigham Young