BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In a high-intensity, back-and-forth affair, the Lehigh men’s tennis team saw its season come to an end with a heartbreaking 4-2 loss to Army in the Patriot League Championship match inside the Lewis Tennis Center. The Mountain Hawks dropped the doubles point but won the first set in the first four singles matches and grabbed a 2-1 lead before Army rallied to win its first title since 2006.
Lehigh, which was looking to win its first-ever Patriot League title, sees its season come to an end at 15-7.
“The Army guys are the ones you want on the wall and there’s a reason for that,” said Lehigh head coach Dave Shook. “Even when you put the pressure on them they figure out a way to stay alive. It’s not an easy fire to put out, so for them to beat us today in this hostile environment shows the kind of character they have and I give them all the credit in the world.”
After playing five and a half hours against Navy on Saturday, Lehigh and Army battled for nearly five more hours on Sunday. The doubles point was tightly contested and took nearly two hours to complete. Seniors Troy List and Collin Laffey won 8-5 over Donald Van Velzer and Tripp Johnson 8-5 to get one on the board for Lehigh, but Army answered with a win at No. 2 doubles as Gary Kushnirovich and Alex Holland downed sophomores Matt Savran and Andrew Krentz 8-5. The doubles came down to No. 3 where a tiebreak was needed between Asika Isoh and Henry Jang-Milsten and Lehigh’s Mark Goldberg and Ryan Krueger. The Army tandem prevailed 10-8 in the hotly-contested tiebreak to win the match and give Army a 1-0 lead.
Lehigh began to mount a comeback, winning the first set at the first four singles matches on the court. The Mountain Hawks rallied to take a 2-1 lead as Goldberg won 6-4, 6-3 over Johnson at fourth singles and Savran won 6-4, 6-4 at Van Velzer at No. 3 singles.
The top two singles flights went to three sets and Army prevailed in both to take control of the match. Kushnirovich battled back for a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over Laffey at No. 2 singles. At first singles, List took the first set from Isoh and had a triple match point in the second but couldn’t close out Isoh, who rallied to take the second set 7-5. Both players battled cramping in the third set but Isoh held off List 6-4 to win the match and put the Black Knights up 3-2.
The clinching point came at No. 5 singles as Holland won 6-3, 7-5 over Krueger. The Black Knights’ top two singles players: Isoh and Kushnirovich, were named tournament co-MVPs.
Shook discussed the progression of the Mountain Hawks in four years with this senior class.
“I’m already having separation anxiety,” Shook said. “That comes with wanting to stay together for another few weeks. I made some great friendships with the players and their families so we have a nice legacy. We went from 6-13 their freshman year and losing to Lafayette to 15-7 and sweeping Lafayette earlier this year. I like the way those numbers add up.”
Army 4, Lehigh 2
1. List/Laffey (L) def. Van Velzer/Johnson (A) 8-5
2. Kushnirovich/Holland (A) def. Savran/Krentz (L) 8-5
3. Isoh/Jang-Milsten (A) def. Goldberg/Krueger (L) 9-8
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3
1. Asika Isoh (A) def. Troy List (L) 6-7, 7-5, 6-4
2. Gary Kushnirovich (A) def. Collin Laffey (L) 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
3. Matt Savran (L) def. Donald Van Velzer (A) 6-4, 6-4
4. Mark Goldberg (L) def. Tripp Johnson (A) 6-4, 6-3
5. Alex Holland (A) def. Ryan Krueger (L) 6-3, 7-5
6. Henry Jang-Milsten (A) vs. Andrew Krentz (L) 6-4, 3-3, DNF
Order of Finish: 4, 3, 2, 1, 5