AZUSA, Calif.-- The No. 11 ranked (NCAA Division II) Azusa Pacific men’s tennis team’s historic streak was put to one of its biggest tests on Friday.
And with the match tied at 3-3 midway through singles play, the Cougars took that test to heart, closing with three straight singles wins to keep their season-opening 16-match winning streak intact with a 6-3 defeat of Amhert (Mass.). The Jeffs took an early 1-0 lead, and after falling behind 2-1, tied the match twice before Azusa Pacific’s depth proved to be too much for the 19th ranked NCAA Division III squad.
Ben Eger clinched the win after overpowering Chris Dale in a second-set tiebreaker. The junior trailed early in the breaker, and after staving off three set-points hit back-to-back forehand winners to seal the Cougar victory (6-4, 7-6 [10-8]). Minutes later Gary Yam put the finishing touches on the match, winning 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 against Surain Asokaraj.
The Cougars took two of three in doubles, getting wins from Frederik Wilkens and Yam at No. 2, and Jochem Hoefnagels (8-6) and Jan Meyer at No. 1 (8-4). In singles, however, Amherst (10-3) tied it up with a quick win on court five. Hoefnagels put Azusa Pacific back ahead with a 7-5, 6-0 victory against Joey Fritz at No. 1, registering his seventh straight singles win to make it a 3-2 affair.
Minutes later the Jeffs tied it again when 19th ranked (NCAA Division III) Mark Kahan posted a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of 31st ranked (Division II) Wilkens. Meyer beat Andrew Yaraghi at No. 3 to put the Cougars within a point of clinching the win, before Eger and Yam closed the match with two-set victories.
The win extended the Cougars’ season-opening streak to 16, and puts Azusa Pacific within seven of the best start in program history (23; 2004). That spree, however, will be put in major jeopardy on Monday when the 12th ranked Sunbirds of Fresno Pacific come to Azusa for a 1:30 p.m. match.