The Berkeley College men's tennis team came to within a whisker of repeating as Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions, but the Knights were outlasted in the 2016 title match on Sunday, falling to the Steels of Culinary Institute of America by a score of 5-4 in a classic contest at the Dutchess Racquet Club in Poughkeepsie, NY.
With the loss, Berkeley College wrapped-up its second season with a mark of 4-8. Meanwhile, the Steels secured their first league title after five straight tournament runner-up finishes, and completed a perfect season in conference play while finalizing its 2016 campaign at 6-3 overall.
Entering the match, Culinary Institute had outscored conference opponents by a staggering margin of 35-1, but the Knights would push the Steels to their limits in what was considered by many as an epic final. After the teams split the first two doubles flights, Berkeley College's Alexander Maurmann and Sebastian Rousseau would solidify a win at No. 3, turning back the Steels' Brynne Schlicher and James Buquet IV by a score of 8-6. With that, the Knights held a 2-1 edge as the match headed into singles competition.
Culinary Institute's Cassidy Seo – who earned 2016 Co-Rookie of the Year honors, recorded a love victory at No. 4 singles, defeating Berkeley College's Rajah Ulrich Mopoundza, 10-0, but Knights standouts Victor Marotta and Kazuki Suzuki dominated in their No. 1 and No. 2 singles contests, defeating Jonghee Lee and Daniel Juarez, 10-2 and 10-4, respectively. That put the Knights ahead by a score of 4-2, with the team on the precipice of another conference crown.
The Steels would rally, however, solidifying wins in the final three singles flights to claim the title. After Nathaniel Putman shutout Andrea Massignani at No. 3, the No. 5 singles match on the main court became the focal point of everyone in the venue. Schlicher earned an early break for Culinary, but Rousseau put the match back on serve and the pair battled back-and-forth until the match was tied at 9, forcing a tiebreaker.
Meanwhile, two courts over, Maurmann took an early lead over Buquet at No. 6 singles, but buquet rallied to take a commanding lead in the flight, putting all the pressure on the main court for the title. Tied 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Schlicher ran off four consecutive points to claim the match in a 10-9 (7-3) victory, and shortly thereafter, Buquet completed the comeback and clinched the title for the Steels, closing out his match 10-3.
Despite the loss for the Knights, Berkeley College's men's tennis program now has two seasons in the books – with one championship to boast – and a trip to the 2016 title match. The future is certainly bright for a program that has already established a winning culture in just a few short years.