|James Moye is congratulated by his teammates after he clinched the overall match Thursday against Arkansas.
(Photo by Wesley Hitt, Arkansas Athletics)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – On March 7th, Vanderbilt dropped a 4-3 decision at Arkansas. Thursday’s rematch proved once again to be just as evenly matched. Playing in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, eighth-seeded Vanderbilt and ninth-seeded Arkansas split the first six points of the match before the Commodores were able to eek out a 4-3 win at the George M. Billingsley Tennis Center.
With the win, No. 31 Vanderbilt (13-8, 4-7 SEC) advances to the second round of the SEC Tournament, where it will face top-seeded Georgia on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the George M. Billingsley Tennis Center.
Vanderbilt started the match in a 1-0 hole after losing the doubles match. However, Vanderbilt regrouped and won the first three completed singles matches to take a 3-1 lead in the match. Arkansas (12-13, 3-8 SEC) then won the next two matches to set the stage for the decisive match in the No. 6 position between Vanderbilt’s James Moye and Arkansas’ Bradwin Williams.
“We really played badly in doubles and I really challenged them afterwards,” Vanderbilt head coach Ian Duvenhage said. “I told them that I wanted more intensity and desire out there, and that is what we got. We got a great start in singles and obviously they came back, but I’m happy with the win.”
While the win was certainly a team effort, the hero of the match was sophomore James Moye, who had played in just one dual match this spring. With the stakes raised on Thursday, Moye certainly didn’t show any rust as he clinched the overall match with a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) win over Williams.
“I’m extremely proud of James Moye,” Duvenhage said. “He got down 5-2 in the tiebreaker before winning five straight points. He’s just got tremendous desire. He is a grinder and competes very well.”
What makes Moye’s win even sweeter was that had the weather been any different, he likely wouldn’t have been in that situation.
“I had Alex (Zotov) in the No. 6 position and was going to play him there if the match was indoors or the weather was nicer,” Duvenhage said. “However, the weather was really windy and I just felt like that would be a situation where James (Moye) would thrive.”
The win not only advanced Vanderbilt to the second round, it also ended four year’s of first round exits for the Commodores at the SEC Tournament. Until Thursday, Vanderbilt had not won a match in the tournament since 2003 when the Commodores won the championship as the No. 2 seed.
After dropping the doubles point, Vanderbilt was able to even the score at one when junior Nick Cromydas earned his second straight win with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Arkansas’ Colin Mascall in the No. 2 position.
The Commodores were then able to take their first lead of the match when freshman Bryant Salcedo earned a 6-3, 6-4 win over the Razorbacks’ Dmitry Lebedev in the No. 4 position. The win was Salcedo’s second in a row.
Holding the lead for the first time of the match, the Commodores didn’t let off the gas. Following Salcedo’s win, sophomore Vijay Paul extended Vanderbilt’s lead to two, 3-1, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Matt Hogan. Like Cromydas and Salcedo, Paul’s win was also his second in a row.
Just when it looked like Vanderbilt had seized total control of the match, Arkansas posted two straight wins to even the match at three.
Arkansas’ first singles victory came in the No. 1 position, where No. 90 Blake Strode defeated No. 54 Ryan Preston, 6-3, 6-3. Thursday’s match was much different than the first time the two met earlier this season. That match last three hours with each set going into a tiebreaker before Strode pulled out the win.
The Razorbacks knotted the score at three when Chris Nott defeated Vanderbilt freshman Adam Baker, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, in the No. 5 position.
Baker’s loss set the stage for James Moye.
In doubles play, Duvenhage tried to snap a string of eight consecutive matches where Vanderbilt had lost the doubles point by using three doubles combinations that hadn’t played with each other all season. Unfortunately, the change wasn’t enough as Arkansas was able to take the doubles point by winning the first two completed matches.
The doubles point was clinched in the No. 3 position, where the Razorbacks’ duo of Colin Mascall and Tyler Tarnasky downed VU’s freshmen duo of Adam Baker and Bryant Saledo, 8-6.
Since Arkansas had already clinched the doubles point, the No. 1 doubles match between VU’s Ryan Preston and Alex Zotov and Arkansas’ Blake Strode and Matt Hogan was suspended with the match tied at eight games apiece.
No. 31 Vanderbilt (13-8, 4-7 SEC) def. No. 46 Arkansas (12-13, 3-8 SEC), 4-3
George M. Billingsley Tennis Center
1. Ryan Preston/Alex Zotov (VU) vs. Blake Strode/Matt Hogan (ARK), 8-8 (susp.)
2. Chris Nott/Taylor King (ARK) def. Nick Cromydas/Vijay Paul (VU), 8-2
3. Colin Mascall/Tyler Tarnasky (ARK) def. Adam Baker/Bryant Salcedo (VU), 8-6
Order of Finish: 2, 3
1. No. 90 Blake Strode (ARK) def. No. 54 Ryan Preston (VU), 6-3, 6-3
2. Nick Cromydas (VU) def. Colin Mascall (ARK), 6-4, 6-3
3. Vijay Paul (VU) def. Matt Hogan (ARK), 6-3, 6-4
4. Bryant Salcedo (VU) def. Dmitry Lebedev (ARK), 6-3, 6-4
5. Chris Nott (ARK) def. Adam Baker (VU), 4-6, 6-3, 6-0
6. James Moye (VU) def. Bradwin Williams (ARK), 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(6)
Order of Finish: 2, 4, 3, 1, 5, 6