Charlottesville, Va. - The Purdue men’s tennis team was after its first NCAA Championships win since 2002 on Friday, but the squad came up just short against No. 23 Columbia at the Boar’s Head Sports Club. The Boilermakers fell 4-2 to the Lions in the opening round, after Benjamin Ugarte was unable to convert on a match point on court three. Had he, the score would have been tied at three all with Purdue’s Athell Bennett leading in the third by four games. Instead, the Boilermakers’ historic season came to an end the same way it did three years ago, when Purdue made its last tournament appearance.
In doubles, the Boilermakers fell behind early against the higher seed, down 3-2, 3-1 and 4-1, respectively. Renan Hanayama and partner Ugater dropped their match first on court three by a final score of 6-1 to Christopher Grant and Michal Rolski.
On court two, Bennett and partner Gergely Madarasz fought back to take a 5-4 lead against Shawn Hadavi and Jackie Tang; however, Stephan Koenigsfest and Ricky Medinilla were still down a break on court one. At 5-4 Columbia on the first, No. 65 Richard Pham and Victor Pham clinched to doubles point for the Lions, leaving Bennett’s match unfinished for the first of two instances.
After the break, Purdue picked up three of the six first sets, while splitting on four total courts. Hanayama was the only Boilermaker who was swept, losing 6-2, 6-0 on the sixth to Timothy Wang. Conversely, Koenigsfest secured a straight set victory for Purdue, defeating Alex Keyser 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) on court four. No. 97 Madarasz earned the team’s only other point on court one, besting No. 101 Hadavi 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
At two all, seniors Medinilla and Ugarte fell in back to back matches on courts two and three, respectively. No. 57 Victor Pham defeated the prior 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 with Jackie Tang winning the final three games on the third to upset Ugarte 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
While the team’s season officially ended with the loss, Medinilla may have one more opportunity to compete in Old Gold & Black. He and doubles partner Madarasz are slated as alternates in the NCAA Championships later this month; the last time the two were in this position, they defeated six straight on their way to the semifinals and a No. 4 national ranking.