It was a difficult Senior Day for the Elon University men’s tennis team as it lost 5-2 to in-state rivals University of North Carolina at Charlotte today.
Elon’s six seniors: Stefan Fortmann, Brian Kowalski, Christopher Geaslen, Jordan Kaufman, Juan Madrid and Dan Sablik were honored before the match with a collage from head coach Michael Leonard and posters from his two daughters.
They’re close with my family and that’s what you want,” Leonard said. “That’s the environment you want to create, that’s the culture we want.”
Leonard recalled some tough times early in the seniors’ careers times early in the careers but said it only helped motivate them to achieve great things in the years that followed. Some of the seniors’ most memorable moments included two regular season Southern Conference championships, one SoCon tournament championship, a trip to the NCAA tournament and an upset of the No. 7 ranked Duke University Blue Devils last year.
“They really had some special moments,” Leonard said. “I always tell them it’s about making moments and they made a lot.”
Four of the six seniors played on Senior Day, but the pre match ceremony offered a chance to recognize two of the Phoenix’s unsung heroes, Sablik and Geaslen, who have made most of their impact off the court.
“What the spectators see are maybe six guys playing, but they don’t see the guys that aren’t playing are a huge part of the team,” Fortmann said. “They’ve given just as much to the program as I have.”
The Phoenix fell behind early in the match against UNC Charlotte after dropping the doubles point. First, Kaufman and junior Robert Lindgren fell at No. 2 doubles 8-2 to senior Kamil Khalil and junior Jordan Massalle Ferrer. Sophomores Chris Humphreys and Madrid were edged out at No. 3 doubles in a tiebreaker to seniors Forrest Edwards and Alex Calott 8-7 (7-3).
The Kowalski and Fortmann’s match at No.1 doubles went unfinished but the duo led 7-6 when the match was called.
The 49ers doubled their lead early by winning the first singles match of the day as Ferrer took defeated Kowalski 6-4, 6-0 at No. 4 singles.
Lindgren lost in straight sets at No. 3 singles 6-4, 6-3 to Khalil to bring Charlotte to within a point of victory. The match-clinching fourth point didn’t come too much later as Kaufman lost in straight sets to junior Hundal at No.2 singles 6-2, 7-6.
But Fortmann did put the Phoenix on the board with a 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 1 singles.
Fortmann said he had thought about this last match for some time and wanted to remain composed, despite the overflow of emotions.
“I really just focused on channeling it the right way,” he said. “I knew this was my last home match and said ‘why not come out the right way.”’
With the loss, the Phoenix drops to 8-11 on the season while UNC Charlotte improves to 16-2. Elon wraps up its regular season with a record of 6-3 at home in 2015.
Freshman Josh Luck retired at No. 5 singles in his matchup with Calott, with the match already decided. Luck hadn’t managed to practice much in the past couple weeks and was unable to complete the match.
Humphreys defeated Paul Cisti at No. 6 singles to earn Elon’s second singles win .
“Humphreys wining was big, we’ve been struggling to find somebody that can play at No. 6,” Leonard said. “That’ll help us in the conference tournament.”
The Phoenix will go on the road to close out its regular season with two matches. The first of the two is on Wednesday at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro at 2 p.m. On April 11, Elon will conclude its regular season at East Carolina.
“Last home match is always fun and should be enjoyed, but as you can see, the work starts now,” Fortmann said. “We obviously haven’t had exactly the season we’ve wanted to have, so we have to finish the regular season real strong with two tough matches and take some momentum going into the tournament.”
Elon head coach Michael Leonard
Elon senior Stefan Fortmann