WILLIAMSVILLE, NY – The University at Buffalo men's tennis team advanced to Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championship match with a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Northern Illinois in the semifinals on Friday afternoon at the Miller Tennis Center. The Bulls will now face top-seeded Western Michigan on Saturday afternoon for the conference title.
The Bulls came away with the important doubles point and that turned out to be the difference in the match. UB's third doubles team of Ethan Nittolo and Matthew Johnson dropped just one game in a 6-1 victory, while Buffalo clinched the point at second doubles as sophomores Villhelm Fridell and Hao Sheng Koay won, 6-2.
Just like a week ago in DeKalb, singles was a battle as five of the six contests either went to a third set or had a tiebreaker. The Bulls picked up the first win as senior Vidit Vaghela had a dominating, 6-3, 6-1 win at six to put the Bulls up 2-0, but then Northern Illinois won matches at four and one to tie the match up at 2-2.
The Bulls regained the lead in the overall match as freshman Nickolas Frisk scored a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win at fifth singles to put Buffalo up 3-2, but NIU answered right back with a win at third singles to tie it up at 3-3 and have the match decided at second singles between Fridell and NIU's Eric Marbach.
Fridell won the first set in a tiebreaker to take the early advantage, but then Marbach won the second set 6-3 to set up a third set between the two. Both players kept it close until 4-3 Buffalo, when Fridell came away with a huge break to go up 5-3. He then won four straight points on serve to close out the set and the match, leading the Bulls to victory.
"I am just so proud of the fight of the group today," said head coach Lee Nickell. "I don't think we played our best tennis this afternoon, but our guys battled and beat a really good Northern Illinois team. We are excited for tomorrow to go out and play for a championship."
The top two seeds will meet tomorrow at 1:00pm as #1 Western Michigan will face the second-seeded Bulls for the MAC Championship. If the match is held indoors, it will be played at Miller Tennis Center and if it is outdoors, it will be held at Sweet Home High School. Please check UBBulls.com and @UBmenstennis on Saturday morning for the final decision.
*Order of Finish: 3,2
1. Krist Ortega (NIU) def. Hao Sheng Koay (UB), 7-6 (4), 6-3
2. Villhelm Fridell (UB) def. Eric Marbach (NIU), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3
3. Louis Hamel (NIU) def. Ethan Nittolo (UB), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
4. Georg Lundkuist (NIU) def. Petr Vodak (UB), 7-6 (6), 6-4
5. Nickolas Frisk (UB) def. Bor Muzar (NIU), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
6. Vidit Vaghela (UB) def. Tom Hjertonsson (NIU), 6-3, 6-1
*Order of Finish: 6,4,1,5,3,2