Mocs Win! Chattanooga Advances at the SoCon Championships
Sophomore Stephen Crofford
Courtesy: GoMocs.com
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's tennis team posted a huge opening round win at the Southern Conference Championships today.  The Mocs gutted out a 4-3 thriller against Georgia Southern at the Champions Club in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

Sophomore Stephen Crofford (Franklin, Tenn.) fought through leg cramps and a tough opponent to win the clinching match at No. 6.  "That was the greatest match I have ever experienced," said an exhausted Crofford.  "The real motivation was that I did not want to play a third set.  I was fighting through cramps and it was much more humid than we have experienced lately."

Action was postponed an hour due to early morning storms in Chattanooga.  Regardless of the delays, UTC advances to face top-seeded Elon in tomorrow's second round at 1:00 p.m. (E.D.T.).  Live scoring will be available for the match on GoMocs.com.

This was a rematch of the Eagle's 4-3 win in Statesboro, Ga., in Sunday's regular season finale.  Both teams fielded the exact same lineup, but the outcome was much different. 

For starters, Chattanooga won the doubles point, something they were not able to do in the first meeting.  Crofford and fellow sophomore Jackson Tresnan (Apopka, Fla.) were the first off the court, winning 8-5 at No. 2. 

Sophomores Chris Smith (Johnson City, Tenn.) and William Disterdick (Hixson, Tenn.) avenged a loss earlier in the week with their 8-5 win over Juan Melian Puigventos and Matthijis Verdam at No. 1.  UTC was leading 6-5 in the No. 3 match, but under tournament rules it was not completed since the Mocs had already secured the point. 

Winning the doubles point was crucial for Chattanooga since UTC did not win a match this season after dropping the doubles matches.  "We stole a few that we didn't win on Sunday, but winning the doubles point was the difference maker," stated Head Coach Carlos Garcia.  "After playing the same team so close, it is fun to see the adjustments you can make.  I am having a blast, changing a few tactics and watching everything come through."

Senior Rick van de Bovenkamp (Oud-Beyerland, The Netherlands) kept them momentum going by winning at No. 4 and giving Chattanooga a 2-0 lead.  He defeated Edio Castanhel (6-2, 6-3) for his career-high 10th singles win of the year. 

"I beat him on Sunday and I knew I would have to play better to beat him again," stated van de Bovenkamp.  "I think I played better today than I did on Sunday because I knew we needed the win."

Georgia Southern buckled down and scored three unanswered points with wins at No. 2, No. 3 and No. 1.  Sophomore Roberto Vieira (Bedfordview, South Africa) was taking on the SoCon Player of the Year in Puigventos at No. 1.  He forced a third set before having to retire due to leg cramps.  Puigventos finished the year with a 22-1 singles record and was only forced to three sets three times.  However, two of those three-setters were against Vieira, a first-team All-SoCon selection himself. 

This left the Mocs needing to win the final two singles to stay alive.  Disterdick lost to Mark Paetz at No. 5 on Sunday, but was able to post a (7-6, 6-4) today.  That evened the match at 3-3 with Crofford's bout against Sebastian Felt serving at the decider. 

Crofford won the first set 7-5, but was also fighting off cramps during the second set.  He was down 5-2 in the second and looking at a tough third frame before bearing down.  He won four of the next five games to force a tiebreaker.  Behind the cheers of the home crowd he gutted out the win with a 7-3 advantage in the breaker. 

"I have been telling the guys all year long that I want this pressure," added Crofford.  "I want it to be three all, on me.  I really didn't think I would be down 5-2 and have to do that.  The guys really helped me fight through these cramps and get the win for the team."

"This was the most important match of these young boys' careers," concluded Garcia.  "There were five sophomores on the court and they have never been in a position like this before.  To handle the pressure today was huge.  Biggest win of the year, no doubt about it." 

Chattanooga snaps an eight-match losing streak with today's win, improving to 8-15 on the year.  It is UTC's first win in the SoCon Tournament since 2007 when the Mocs advanced to the semifinals. 

Chattanooga 4, Georgia Southern 3
Apr 20, 2011 at Chattanooga, Tenn. (Champions Club)
Doubles competition
1.
Chris Smith/William Disterdick (UTC) def. J. Melian Puigventos/Matthijs Verdam (GSU) - 8-5
2.
Jackson Tresnan/Stephen Crofford (UTC) def. Edio Castanhel/Marco Osorio (GSU) - 8-5
3. Alain Garrido/Derrick Davison (GSU) vs.
Orlando Lourenco/Roberto Vieira (UTC) - 5-6, unfinished

Singles competition
1. J. Melian Puigventos (GSU) def.
Roberto Vieira (UTC) - 6-1, 1-6, 5-0, retired
2. Matthijs Verdam (GSU) def.
Chris Smith (UTC) - 6-2, 6-2
3. Alain Garrido (GSU) def.
Jackson Tresnan (UTC) - 7-6, 6-2
4.
Rick van de Bovenkamp (UTC) def. Edio Castanhel (GSU) - 6-2, 6-3
5.
William Disterdick (UTC) def. Mark Paetz (GSU) - 7-6 (7-4), 6-4
6.
Stephen Crofford (UTC) def. Sebastien Felt (GSU) - 7-5, 7-6 (7-3)  

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