After a tight back-and-forth match, the Denver Pioneers pulled out a tough victory against the Florida men’s tennis team 4-3 on Friday night at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville. With the win, Denver will face No. 18 California at 4 p.m. on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the Round of 16 in Champagne, Illinois, next week.
“They played very well,” said Florida head coach Bryan Shelton. “I give them all the credit in the world. They were prepared to play and they competed like champions. Although we got the doubles point, the match was far from over in their minds. To be up 3-1 and have three guys out on the court, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Those guys never quit. They kept competing and gave themselves an opportunity to win the match and when they had the opportunity they seized it.
“It hurts, and I want it to hurt our guys to the point that it motivates them to get better. We’ve got to get better as a team, as a program. We’ve got to do things better so that there’s more margin between us and the teams that we’re playing against. Right now there just wasn’t enough margin for us to get the job done today.”
“Our guys just fought their tails off,” Denver head coach Danny Westerman said following the match. “They deserve all the credit. It’s been an unbelievable, roller-coaster year. We have lost nine in-a-row, at one point, and won nine in-a-row. Going what we went through got them ready for something like today. They really earned it. They stuck together when no one probably believed in them and they believed in themselves. It was great.”
Florida had some early momentum with strong doubles play on courts one and three. The 20th-ranked pair of Stephane Piro and Bob van Overbeek beat Enej Bonin and Jens Vorkefeld 8-4 on court one, and then Florent Diep and Gordon Watson finished off Alex Clinkenbeard and Henry Craig 8-3 minutes later at No. 3 doubles to take the first point.
Watson extended UF’s lead with a 6-2, 6-1 win on court five against Denver’s Fabio Biasion, but the Pioneers got on the board after Bonin beat Piro at No. 1 singles, 6-4, 6-3. Not long after, Mike Alford was able to pull out a tough second set after trailing 4-2 to be Craig in straight sets 6-2, 7-5 to put Florida ahead 3-1 overall.
On court two, Denver’s Vorkefeld pulled out a tiebreaker in the first set, then broke Diep in the second set to win 7-6 (4), 6-3 and pull the Pioneers within one point in the match.
The remaining two courts split the first two sets and went to a deciding third set. On court three, van Overbeek won the first set against Max Krammer 6-3, but dropped the second set 6-3. In the third set, Krammer pulled out a 7-5 victory to even the match at 3-3 overall.
Seconds later, Denver’s Clinkenbeard won 7-5, 1-6, 6-1 against Federhofer on court six to clinch the victory and help the Pioneers advance to the second round for the first time in school history.
“Anytime you play the No. 1 seed, they are the host school,” said Westerman. “They are No. 15 in the country. It’s a tournament, this is what it is all about. Wanting to hit that ball under pressure; we swung away. We played our best match of the year in the conference tournament. We took it up another level today. Hopefully, we can take it up another level tomorrow.”
“They came into our place, on our courts, and got it done,” said Coach Shelton. “Again, I take my hat off to them. As the coach of this team and this program, I’ve got to do a better job of preparing our guys and we’ve just got to get better.”
2013 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships
1st & 2nd Rounds, May 10-11
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Comple
Denver 4, #15 Florida 3
1. #59 Enej Bonin (DEN) def. #52 Stephane Piro (UF), 6-4, 6-3
2. Jens Vorkefeld (DEN) def. #72 Florent Diep (UF), 7-6 (4), 6-3
3. Max Krammer (DEN) def. #111 Bob van Overbeek (UF), 3-6, 6-3, 7-5
4. Mike Alford (UF) def. Henry Craig (DEN), 6-2, 7-5
5. Gordon Watson (UF) def. Fabio Biasion (DEN), 6-2, 6-1
6. *Alex Clinkenbeard (DEN) def. Billy Federhofer (UF), 7-5, 1-6, 6-1
1. #20 Piro/van Overbeek (UF) def. Bonin/Vorkefeld (DEN), 8-4
2. Alford/Johnson (UF) vs. Biasion/Krammer (DEN), 3-5 unfinished
3. *Diep/Watson (UF) def. Clinkenbeard/Craig (DEN), 8-3
Florida 15-11, 7-5 SEC; National Ranking-#15
Denver 12-11; National Ranking-NR
Order of finish: Doubles (1, 3); Singles (5, 1, 4, 2, 3, 6)
T – 3:23