The Panthers' first NCAA Tournament appearance in 32 years did not disappoint despite the 5-0 final score. The team fought to the end against Wisconsin Whitewater, ranked #9 in the ITA Central Region, in front of likely the largest and loudest crowd in the history of Hexberg Tennis Center.
Brody Swan and Daniel Gomez came out of the gates firing before the Warhawks pulled away at 3rd doubles, while Nat Kenworthy and Jules Kitchingman went down early but kept it within one break before ultimately falling on court two. Wyatt Dale and Greg Sovie showed up in a big way against the region's #12 doubles team despite taking a tight loss. They rode the massive home crowd support through the whole match, although one break while trailing 5-4 provided the difference.
Whitewater's singles depth overcame the Panthers as the match wore on with Sovie and Kitchingman taking losses, though not without several encouraging individual results. Dale battled at 2nd singles where each player struggled to hold serve, eventually dropping his first set in a tiebreak as the match was called.
Gomez started uncharacteristically slowly and down two breaks at 4-1, but from there the comeback was on. Again, the home fans started rocking and Gomez continued to find the next gear. At 6-6 it was all him in the tiebreak, with his first set win giving the team at least some positive momentum before the match and their season concluded.
The energy in the building was truly on another level Thursday and the team greatly appreciated the tremendous fan support. The atmosphere was unbelievable, especially for Division III tennis, and provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the players from warmups through the final point. Thank you to everyone who showed up and got loud to support the team with the incredible opportunity to play the first round of the NCAA Tournament at home. We look forward to seeing everyone back out there next year!
Box Score (winners in bold):
1st doubles: Wyatt Dale/Greg Sovie vs #12 Jimmy Engelhart/Alex Gray 8-6
2nd: Jules Kitchingman/Nat Kenworthy vs Brandon Dechter/Robert Rider 8-4
3rd: Daniel Gomez/Brody Swan vs Ryan Mitchell/Zach Wood 8-3
1st singles: #20 Gomez vs Engelhart 7-6 (2) unfinished
2nd: Dale vs Dechter 6-7 (2) unfinished
3rd: Sovie vs Gray 6-1, 6-0
4th: Kitchingman vs Mitchell 6-0, 6-2
5th: Kenworthy vs Brendan Pietila no result
6th: Swan vs Wood no result
Final score- Whitewater 5-0
STORY COURTESY OF PRINCIPIA COLLEGE SPORTS INFORMATION