AZUSA, Calif.-- They’ve been there before and came out ok, but on Monday afternoon an early 2-1 hole almost proved to be too much for the Azusa Pacific men’s tennis team to overcome. Almost.
The 11th ranked Cougars extended their season-long winning streak to 17 matches with a narrow 5-4 victory over No. 12 ranked Fresno Pacific after a familiar ending brought an even more familiar result. With the match knotted at 4-4, and with Gary Yam fighting back from a first set defeat the Cougars’ historic run hinged on the sophomore’s comeback bid.
And as he’s done before, Yam proved that crunch time is his, registering a 6-4 win in the second set before clinching Azusa Pacific’s second-straight win over Fresno Pacific with a 6-3 third set defeat of Stefan Loop on court No. 6. Azusa Pacific had lost its previous 12 matches to the Sunbirds (11-6) prior to tabbing back-to-back wins this season.
The Cougars faced a 2-1 deficit after doubles, something they didn’t have to deal with in their 5-4 defeat of Fresno Pacific on Feb. 18. The Sunbirds beat Frederik Wilkens and Yam at No. 2, and logged an 8-6 win against Whitman Hough and Ben Eger at No. 3. Jochem Hoefnagels and Jan Meyer provided the lone doubles victory, beating Kirill Sinitsyn and Kyle Rowe 8-6.
In singles the Cougars quickly erased the Sunbirds’ lead, winning three consecutive matches, beginning with Eger’s 6-3, 6-2 win over Rowe. Meyer gave the Cougars a 3-2 edge after defeating Marco Gabriel 6-0, 6-4, and Wilkens pushed the lead to 4-2 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Amarit Sanchez.
But Fresno Pacific rallied, winning the next two matches at No. 1 and No. 5 to set up Yam’s match-winning victory. Meyer improved to 17-0, and the Cougars moved to within six wins of reaching the program-mark for season-opening wins. The 2006 squad won its first 23 matches, and if Azusa Pacific wants to reach that total it’ll need to run through the rest of the regular season, and win its first two at the PacWest tournament on April 18-20.
The Cougars will return to action next Monday when they travel to Fullerton for a 2 p.m. match with Hope International.