MUNCIE, Ind. – Freshman Lucas Andersen's three-set singles win on court three clinched a 4-3 victory for the third-seeded Ball State men's tennis team over fourth-seed Buffalo Saturday afternoon in the championship match of the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament at the Cardinal Creek Tennis Center.
This was the first time the Cardinals had been to the final match of the MAC Tournament since the 2011 season when Ball State won the title at Western Michigan's Sorenson Courts.
"What an incredible day. To be able to win an exciting match like that at home for the conference championship is something that you dream about," Ball State head men's tennis coach Bill Richards said. "I give our guys all the credit. They are a great bunch of fighters, probably not the most talented team in the league, but very, very tough mentally. They fought so hard to come back after losing a tough doubles point and losing some first sets in singles. All we talked about was winning the first set and we won enough to keep us hanging in there. I am just really proud of our 'Team Indiana guys,' as we call them. A bunch of Hoosiers that got the job done today."
The Cardinals had to fight back after dropping the doubles point to Buffalo despite Patrick Elliott and Andrew Stutz winning their match first after posting an 8-2 victory over Buffalo's Jonathan Hannestad and Sergio Arevalillo.
On court three, Lucas Andersen paired up with Matt Helm but fell to Sebastian Lonescu and Pablo Alvarez, 8-5. Just like the first meeting against the Bulls during the regular season, the doubles competition came down to No. 1 doubles. The doubles tandem of Austin Smith and Ray Leonard won that meeting over Akhil Mehta and Damien David, but this time the Bulls would come out on top beating the Ball State twosome, 8-7 (7-4).
For the second straight day, Smith was the first match off the court for the Cardinals as the team's lone senior took down Arevalillo in straight sets (6-1, 6-1) at No. 4 singles to tie the match 1-1. After that, it was like a domino effect, Elliott won 6-1, 6-3 over Lonescu on court two then Leonard followed with a 7-5, 6-2 victory at No. 1 over David.
Despite the Cardinals taking a 3-1 advantage over the Bulls late in the match, Buffalo did not go away without a fight. The Bulls earned wins on courts six and five knotting the match 3-3.
The match would then come down to court three where Andersen was fighting back after losing the first set to Alvarez 7-4. Andersen took the second set 6-1 sending the match into a third set. The two would continued to battle until the very end of the competition where it would come down to a tie break situation. Both rallied until Andersen clinched the match winning the tie breaker 9-7.
The Ball State men's tennis team is led by Richards who is in his 42nd season at the helm of the Cardinals. Ball State has now won 22 MAC titles in program history, including 17 undefeated MAC seasons. Ball State has participated in the MAC for the last 33 years, claiming 38 regular season and or tournament championships. Since the MAC tournament format started in 1997, the Cardinals have won the league tournament seven times (1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2014).
At the conclusion of today's match. Andersen and Smith were named to the All-MAC Tournament team. Smith was awarded the 2014 Men's Tennis MAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
The Ball State University men's tennis team will compete in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Tournament, May 10-11, at a location to be announced next week.
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State men’s tennis, follow @bsuathletics and @BallStateMTNS on Twitter.
All-MAC Tournament Team
Akhil Mehta, Buffalo
Jonathan Hannestad, Buffalo
Lucas Andersen, Ball State
Austin Smith, Ball State
Frederic Cadieux, Northern Illinois
Stjepan Sisko, Toledo
Most Outstanding Player
Austin Smith, Ball State