Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ERIE, Pa. —
Three Bluefield State College tennis players swung through the brackets this weekend against some of the top competitors from the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region and emerged Sunday as the top singles player and doubles team.
Jacob Carey took the singles title and teammates Vishwesh Sinha and Aziz Yuldashev were the doubles winners in the Division II portion of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Atlantic Region championships at Mercyhurst University.
Their next stop is the ITA small-college national tournament on Oct. 10-13 in Fort Myers, Fla.
“Only eight players and eight doubles teams go to this, from the eight regions around the country,” said Bluefield State head tennis coach Louis Belt. The Big Blues have had players reach this level as regional champions for the past four years in singles play and the past three in doubles.
“That says a lot about how talented the individuals have been, and how talented we have become as a program,” Belt said. “I think that’s quite an accomplishment for them individually, and for BSC.”
Six Big Blues entered the 29-player singles competition in Erie. Sinha and Carey, slotted first and second, received first-round byes. BSC’s Vlad Catlan and Yuldashev were seeded fifth and eighth.
Carey defeated Daniel Gimenez of host Mercyhurst 4-6, 7-5, 13-11 in his first match, then shut out Joel Izquierdo of West Virginia Wesleyan 6-0, 6-0. He beat James Gammell of the University of Charleston 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals, and faced teammate Yuldashev in Sunday’s singles final, winning 6-1, 6-2.
The doubles side of the event included 15 teams, playing one set in each bracket until the championship match. Sinha and Yuldashev started out seeded third, and got by teams from West Liberty University and Edinboro, Pa., to reach the semifinals.
The Big Blues pair edged the tourney’s top seed, Wesleyan’s Izquierdo and Aitor Reparaz, by a score of 9-8 (3) to claim a berth in the championship. They turned back the University of Charleston duo of Gammell and Dennis Okoth 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the finale.
Carey and Piotr Kruk of BSC were seeded second in the doubles brackets.
Carey said Sunday about the success of Bluefield State tennis, “It was all the members of the team. We have been working very hard, practicing every day.”
“We’ve always had a strong team, the past few years. We’ve developed a winning culture for this team. If one just puts in all the effort, you’ll be able to win these big matches.”
Last year, as a freshman, Carey made the singles final and won the doubles.
“It gave me a lot more confidence, that I’ve been there before,” said the New Zealand native. “The thing that helped me the most was having been in the finals. ... It wasn’t so much the shock. I’ve already seen it before.”
Yuldashev, who is from Uzbekistan in central Asia, is in his first year playing for Bluefield State, after transferring from South Carolina State University.
“He’s an excellent player,” Belt said. “We’ve had a lot of good players ... and I think he has the potential to be among the best.”
Collegiate men’s tennis is primarily a spring sport, but the fall season is important, Belt said.
“I think tennis, No. 1, is a sport you have to play year-round to keep sharp,” he said. “For example, in this tournament, I entered my whole team. It allows me to evaluate how my players are playing, (and) any new players I have.”
Fall tournaments “give them a perspective of where we need to be on a national level to compete, and where we stand, going into the championship segment in the spring,” Belt said.
The men’s team played earlier this fall in the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) National Championships in Atlanta.
The Bluefield State men have matches at Bluefield City Courts on Friday against King College and on Saturday versus Tusculum. Action starts at 2 p.m. But soon the men will focus on the ITA nationals.
“It’s exciting,” Belt said. “It’s nice for them to get to go to the next thing and see how they can compete ... with some of the top players in the country.”
Carey said, “I’m excited to go down there, definitely excited. It’ll be a lot of fun to play singles, and we hope we can get a couple of good wins while we’re down there.”