ANNAPOLIS, Md. – For the second time in eight days and third time in the last three meetings in the series, the Navy (32-10) men’s tennis team rallied after dropping the doubles point to Army (18-14) to defeat the Black Knights, 4-1, Sunday in Annapolis in the championship match of the Patriot League Tournament.
The victory sends Navy to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight year in which the event is held and the 10th time in the last 15 editions of the championship. The bracket for the and tournament will be announced Monday evening and the first round will be held this coming weekend.
The teams, which had advanced to the championship match of the league tournament for the eighth-time in a row and 13th time in the last 15 tournaments, played three great doubles matches. One match was decided by the score of 6-4 and the remaining two were extended into tiebreakers with each determined by the final score of 7-5.
“Wow,” said Navy head coach Chris Garner, whose Mids have now won the league title five times in his seven years in which the event has been held. “What an incredibly exciting doubles point. The emotional ups and downs were something else.”
The No. 2 flight’s match remained on serve until Army’s Samuel Eden and Diego Huttepain broke Finn Garner (Jr., Arnold, Md.) And Gavin Segraves (Jr., Charlottesville, Va.) To take a 5-4 lead. The Black Knights then held serve to win, 6-4.
There were no breaks of serve in the No. 3 match between Navy’s Jack Dabek (Sr., Dublin, Ohio) and Luke Garner (Fr., Arnold, Md.) And Army’s Jake Huarte and Nathan Jose, which sent the match into a tiebreaker. The Mids jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker, only to see the Black Knights close to within 5-4. The Navy pairing was able to win two of the next three points to hang on for the victory.
The No. 1 match saw Army’s Thomas Lake and AJ Woodman go up two breaks of serve and take a 4-1 lead on Navy’s Sasha Panyan (So., Lutherville, Md.) And Derrick Thompson (Sr., Towson, Md.). The Mids fought back by winning the next four games to take a 5-4 lead. The Black Knights won the next two games to regain a 6-5 lead, but Navy won the next game on a break of serve to send the match into a tiebreaker. The teams were knotted at 5-5 in the breaker when the Black Knights won the next two points to win the match and the doubles point.
Navy needed to win four of the six singles matches to earn the victory, something it had done both April 23 in the Star Match and in the championship match of the 2021 Patriot League Tournament.
“We were put in the same situation last week,” said Thompson, the Navy team captain who was selected as the MVP of the tournament for the second time in his career. “We knew what we had to do; play our games, come out strong, keep the energy high and support one another.”
Today, the Mids put themselves in a good position to do that as they won the first set in four singles matches. The second set was underway in all six matches when rain arrived forcing play that began on the outdoor courts of the USNA to move to the indoor courts at the nearby Tose Family Tennis Center.
“The only message the coach told us on the ride over was just, ‘take care of business; we know what to do, stick to it,'” Thompson said. “It was silent after that in the car. Everyone just walked in determined once we arrived.”
“Our seniors and Sasha were able to take the first sets,” Garner said. “The match was definitely in balance when the rain came. After we went indoors, the team really rose to another level.”
Thompson won the opening set of his No. 1 singles match against Huttepain, 7-6 (7-1), and held a 3-0 lead in the second set when the rain arrived. Huttepain won the first game contested indoors, but Thompson won the next three to win the set, 6-1, and tie the score at 1-1.
Panyan trailed Huarte, 3-1 and 5-3, in the first set of their No. 6 singles match, but Panyan won the next four games to claim the opening frame, 7-5. The players were tied at 3-3 in the second set outdoors, with Panyan winning the first game when play began again. The duo remained on serve until Panyan, who was leading, 6-5, broke Huarte to close out the match and make the team score 2-1.
Less than one minute later, Jack McBride (Sr., Chapel Hill, NC) registered a 6-2, 7-5 win over Samuel Haikal to move the Mids to within one victory of the championship. It took perhaps two more minutes before the celebration began as Jake Fishkin (Sr., Baltimore, Md.) Rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the second set to defeat Samuel Haikal, 6-2, 7-5, at no. 5 singles.
In the remaining matches, Woodman held a 6-4, 5-4 lead on Segraves at No. 2 and Finn Garner and Eden were tied in the third set at No. 3 singles. Eden won the first set, 6-2, Garner won the second set by the same score and the players were knotted at 1-1 in the third set.
“(The run inside) started with Derrick pulling ahead, Gavin clawing back, Finn winning the second set, Jack increasing his lead, Jake working his way back, Sasha becoming more energized and every guy on the team whether on court or in the stands just living it, ”Garner said. “It was a wave that catapulted them to four singles wins. What a ride.”
Navy def. Army, 4-1
Doubles – Army wins the doubles point (2-3-1)
1. Lake, Thomas / Woodman, AJ (ARMY) def. Panyan, Sasha / Thompson, Derrick (NAVY) 7-6 (7-5)
2. Eden, Samuel / Huttepain, Diego (ARMY) def. Garner, Finn / Segraves, Gavin (NAVY) 6-4
3. Dabek, Jack / Garner, Luke (NAVY) def. Huarte, Jake / Jose, Nathan (ARMY) 7-6 (7-5)
1. Thompson, Derrick (NAVY) def. Huttepain, Diego (ARMY) 7-6 (7-1), 6-1
2. Segraves, Gavin (NAVY) vs. Woodman, AJ (ARMY) 4-6, 4-5, unfinished
3. Garner, Finn (NAVY) vs. Eden, Samuel (ARMY) 2-6, 6-2, 1-1, unfinished
4. McBride, Jack (NAVY) def. Lake, Thomas (ARMY) 6-4, 6-1
5. Fishkin, Jake (NAVY) def. Haikal, Samuel (ARMY) 6-2, 7-5
6. Panyan, Sasha (NAVY) def. Huarte, Jake (ARMY) 7-5, 7-5