FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the second time this season, the Arkansas and Vanderbilt tennis teams played to a 4-3 outcome, but unlike the first, the Razorbacks fell one match short against the ninth-seeded Commodores in a first-round matchup of the SEC Championship on Thursday at the George M. Billingsley Tennis Center. Arkansas (12-13, 3-8) rallied from a 3-1 deficit to even the match, but the Commodores were able to hold of the Razorbacks’ charge.
The Razorbacks, playing in the day’s last match, took early control of the conference dual by earning the double point. On court two, Chris Nott and Taylor King were 8-2 victors over Nick Cromydas and Vijay Paul. The Razorback tandem of Colin Mascall and Tyler Tarnasky cemented the team point with an 8-6 win over Adam Baker and Bryant Salcedo at No. 3 doubles.
After a lengthy wait caused by the end of the preceding match—South Carolina vs. Alabama—the Commodores jumped out to a 3-1 lead with wins on courts two, three and four. Paul’s straight-set win over Matt Hogan put Vanderbilt on the verge of the win.
Blake Strode began the rally for the Razorbacks with a 6-3, 6-3, win over No. 54 Ryan Preston on court one. The UA netters continued the comeback and tied the match with a three-set victory at No. 5 singles by Nott. The win gives Nott a team-leading 25 this season and extends his winning streak to six.
With the match tied, the contest between Bradwin Williams and James Moye on court six would decide the match. Williams jumped out to a one-set lead which was short lived as Moye quickly forced a third. Neither player was able to gain an advantage in the final set and with an ace by Williams, the match was forced into a tiebreak.
The Razorback sophomore gained leads of 3-0 and 5-2, but Moye stuck around to forge ahead and clinch the win for Vanderbilt, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(8).
“That was a good, good college tennis match,” head coach Robert Cox said. “It was awesome. There was good college spirit on both sides. It’s amazing with a dual match the dynamics that play out. It came down to No. 6 (singles), but we lost four matches, not just one.”
With the regular season and conference championship play over, the Razorbacks, ranked No. 46 in the country, will wait along with other teams hoping to earn an invitation to the NCAA Championships which begin the weekend of May 9 with the Regional Championships.
“We needed that win to keep playing (NCAA Tournament),” Cox said. “Now we’re probably on the bubble and it will be up to a committee.”
The team selections will be announced April 29 on ESPNews between 1 and 1:30 p.m. CT. The SEC Championship will continue through Sunday at the Billingsley Tennis Center on the UA campus. Log on to www.hogwired.com for more information.
#31 Vanderbilt 4, #46 Arkansas 3
SEC Championship – First Round
George M. Billingsley Tennis Center
1. #90 Blake Strode (UA) def. #54 Ryan Preston (VU), 6-3, 6-3
2. Nick Cromydas (VU) def. Colin Mascall (UA), 6-4, 6-3
3. Vijay Paul (VU) def. Matt Hogan (UA), 6-3, 6-4
4. Bryant Salcedo (VU) def. Dmitry Lebedev (UA), 6-3, 6-4
5. Chris Nott (UA) def. Evan Dufaux (VU), 4-6, 6-3, 6-0
*6. James Moye (VU) def. Bradwin Williams (UA), 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(6)
1. Blake Strode/Matt Hogan (UA) vs. Ryan Preston/Alex Zotov (VU), 8-8 (susp.)
2. Taylor King/Chris Nott (UA) def. Nick Cromydas/Vijay Paul (VU), 8-2
3. Tyler Tarnasky/Colin Mascall (UA) def. Adam Baker/Bryant Salcedo (VU), 8-6
Order of Finish: Doubles (2, 3); Singles (2, 4, 3, 1, 5, *6)
* – clinching match