The Elon University men’s tennis team lost to the College of Charleston 4-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) semifinals, with a 30-point tiebreaker being the decisive moment in the match.
On Court No. 2, freshman Mario Paccini battled Cougar junior Rodrigo Encinas to a third set tiebreaker, then fought back and forth through a 30-point tiebreak. Down 15-14, Paccini couldn’t handle Encinas’ serve and hit the ball wide, ending the four-hour, 11-minute semifinal match.
“I was so tired — I was done,” Paccini said. “I was cramping almost the entire last set.”
In between the time that the 30-point tiebreaker started and ended, Petar Tomic lost on Court No. 5 and freshman Felipe Sarrasague lost on Court No. 1, making the match on Court No. 2 the decisive match.
“You don’t see that very often,” said Elon head coach Michael Leonard. “You can probably watch tennis for 20 years, and you won’t see a tiebreak go that long in that situation. I can’t think of a tiebreak where it’s three-all where a tiebreaker went that long in singles. In a three-all match. Ever.”
Paccini and Encinas traded shots back and forth, impressing Leonard, who hopes it sets an example for the other Elon players.
“It’s pretty amazing that you can get yourself in that situation,” Leonard said. “And they stepped up. They stepped up. Really, I’m glad our team watched that, because both of those guys played to win. There wasn’t anybody who played scared. When they were down, they played to win. That’s what it’s supposed to be, and I give credit to them. That was a hell of a match.”
Freshman Felipe Osses-Konig won on Court No. 6 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, but the other three freshmen playing singles lost. Leonard understands how tough it is for the young guys to play in big matches this early.
“We’re really young,” Leonard said. “We put these guys in these situations as freshmen, and that’s tough. We had four freshmen playing singles. They’re going to grow from this, they’re going to learn from this. I’m disappointed for the team because they worked so hard for this.”
Leonard admits that the tough defeat is “going to hurt all of us,” but he’s hopeful the team will respond to this similarly to a team that previously lost at Elon in a conference tournament.
“I’ve been here before,” Leonard said. “In 2013, we lost one tight like this, then we came back and won the championship the next year. I’m hopeful we can do that again. These guys can use this as motivation for the following year.”
The Phoenix finishes the season 17-6 on the year, its highest win total since Elon won 19 matches in 2014.