By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Next stop for Bluefield State men’s tennis: Surprise!
The top seed in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region played true to form Monday, as the Big Blues handed Kutztown (Pa.) University a convincing 5-0 defeat in the 2013 regional championship match at the windy and chilly Bluefield City Courts.
Bluefield State (21-2) advanced to the national tournament for the second year in a row. The tournament for the top 16 teams in Division II starts May 8 in Surprise, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix.
“It’s like, ‘Surprise! Bluefield State is here!’ ” said BSC coach Louis Belt on Monday. “We were fortunate to play real well, and to get to play in the natonal tournament for the second time in a row ... obviously, I’m very proud of the team.”
Bluefield State dominated fourth-seeded Kutztown (13-7) in doubles play, winning all three matches to take a 3-0 lead heading into the singles phase.
The regional top-ranked doubles duo of Bluefield State’s Jacob Carey and Pitor Kruk defeated Rushi Amin and Varun Desai 8-4 at No. 1 doubles to avenge a loss to Amin and Desai earlier this month. It was the first loss by Amin and Desai at doubles all season.
Shikhar Kapur and Vishwesh Sinha, also regionally ranked, cruised to an 8-2 win over Rich Lichtenwalner and Ben Nace in the No. 2 doubles match.
Niklass Sparr and Vlad Catlan completed the doubles sweep with an 8-4 win over Kenny Beebe and Matthew Maguire.
A light rain halted singles play temporarily but the Big Blues maintained their momentum and claimed the two singles wins needed to seal the match.
Carey was first to win, picking up a quick 6-2, 6-0 win over Desai at No. 2 singles, then Sinha beat Amin 6-1, 6-1 to clinch the victory and send Bluefield State to Arizona.
Carey’s play on Monday was “unbelievable,” Belt said. “He’s a freshman, but he was really focused, really confident. He did the same thing in the conference tournament. It’s like he was in a zone, in a hot streak. And it has happened at a very good time.”
Carey said,”I got out on the court really motivated. I came out a lot more aggressive than normally, and I tried to play with more confidence.”
He remembered his previous doubles match against Amin and Desai at Bloomsburg, Pa., on April 13, won by the Kutztown duo 8-4.
“Both me and Piotr were quite excited to get another chance, to get some revenge,” said Carey, who is from the nation of New Zealand. “We knew we could play better.”
He said the cold and windy conditions at the Bluefield City Courts was a contrast from their first meeting.
Kutztown led 4-3 at one point, “then we were able to play with more confidence, more energy,” Carey said. “Then we won six games straight.”
Playing on their home courts “always helps,” Carey said. “It feels better when you’re at home. You know the conditions on the court, and around it.”
Attendees at the match included Bluefield State College President Marsha Krotseng, athletics director Terry Brown and Bluefield mayor Linda Whelan.
Belt said, “We don’t have the largest crowds. It was really fun and nice to have a nice contingent watching us play down at the courts today. (They) really energized our team to come out and play to our ability, and play our best.”
He added, “No matter how hard an individual works, it takes a team effort. This includes the admissions personnel, the faculty and staff who are so great to work with our students when they miss classes.”
His list included the city which takes care of the outdoor courts, the Sarver Tennis Center which is the consistent standby location in case of bad weather.
Belt added, “The people who donate, such as Carl Wilson and the Skewes Foundation — through their support, (they) allow us to do some special things that reach another level.”
He said that the Kutztown players were “a very good team, a gracious team. They were very complimentary of our team, the players, the fans, the facilities and the town of Bluefield.”
Krotseng said via email on Monday, “BSC is extraordinarily proud of our men’s tennis team.”
“From the outset, they set high goals — to win the regional tournament and gain a berth in the nationals. That’s been their focus all season. It shows the magic that happens when the players all work together toward common goals.”
“I commend Coach Belt and every team member for maintaining that focus and for their dedication to excellence, both on the court and in the classroom. They are great ambassadors for Bluefield State and will bring national recognition to the campus.”
“It’s not every day we have an athletic team make it to the national level,” Krotseng said.
Bluefield State has drawn the third-highest team in the national rankings, West Florida, to open the national tournament.
“We’re a little snakebit by the luck of the draw,” Belt said.
The coach also said he received a text from Krotseng on Monday afternoon reading in part, “Go get them in Arizona.”
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org