KALAMAZOO, MI – Sophomore Ethan Nittolo outlasted Jannik Opitz in a third-set tiebreaker at sixth singles on Saturday, capping off a comeback for the ages that saw the Bulls win the final three singles matches and claim the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship against #2 Western Michigan. With the victory, the Bulls will now represent the MAC in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The match began outdoors as the Broncos took the doubles point with wins at one and three. The Bulls got a win at two as Petr Vodak and Villhelm Fridell won 6-2. In singles play, the Broncos won the opening set in five of the six matches and looked to be in control, but then play was moved indoors and the tide seemed to turn.
Vodak won his singles match easily at five, 6-0, 6-1 to tie it up at 1-1, but then the Broncos picked up wins at one and two to take the 3-1 lead. With matches at three, four, and six still on court, Western Michigan needed just one more victory, however that never came.
Fridell lost his opening set at four 6-2, but then he stayed alive in a tiebreaker in the second, winning 7-6 (5), and in the third set he won 6-3 to pull Buffalo within 3-2. At three, freshman Filip Grbic lost his opening set 6-4, but then he came back to grab the second set 6-3, and in a tiebreaker in the third, he prevailed with an 8-6 victory to tie the match up at 3-3.
That left it to Nittolo, one of just two returning players from last season. Nittolo lost his opening set 6-3, but like the theme of the afternoon, tiebreakers were in the cards for the match. They went to a tiebreaker in the second set, which Nittolo needed to stay alive, and he got it 7-2, to send the match to the third set. Opitz got out to the quick lead in the third as Nittolo was down a pair of breaks, 4-1, before he began to climb back. Nittolo and Opitz found their way into a tiebreaker yet again in the third and final set and the sophomore prevailed with a 7-5 win, clinching the match and the championship for the Bulls.
Nittolo was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament, while Vodak was named to the All-Tournament Team.
This is the second time that the Bulls will play in the NCAA Tournament in the last three years. The win improves the Bulls to 14-5 on the season and Buffalo will enter the NCAA Tournament on a seven-match winning streak.
The Bulls will find out where they are headed on Tuesday at 5:00 pm when the NCAA holds their selection show. First round NCAA Tournament matches will be held on Friday, May 12.
- Daniel Loebel/Kennosuke Nouchi (WMU) def. Hao Sheng Koay/Filip Grbic (BUFF) 6-3
- Petr Vodak/Villhelm Fridell (BUFF) def. Matt Hamilton/Maik Steiner (WMU) 6-2
- Eric Olivarez/Jannik Opitz (WMU) def. Ethan Nittolo/Tony Miller (BUFF) 6-2
- Kennosuke Nouchi (WMU) def. Hao Sheng Koay (BUFF) 6-3, 6-4
- Matt Hamilton (WMU) def. Vidit Vaghela (BUFF) 6-3, 6-2
- Filip Grbic (BUFF) def. Maik Steiner (WMU) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6)
- Villhelm Fridell (BUFF) def. Daniel Loebel (WMU) 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3
- Petr Vodak (BUFF) def. Matej Svjetlicic (WMU) 6-0, 6-1
- Ethan Nittolo (BUFF) def. Jannik Opitz (WMU) 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-5)