MT rallies to top No. 23 Alabama

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the midst of a season-long three-match losing skid, No. 34 Vanderbilt looked well on its way to its fourth straight loss, trailing No. 23 Alabama 3-1 on Sunday. However, the Commodores rallied to earn a 4-3 victory over the Crimson Tide at the Currey Tennis Center.

“We really needed that one,” Vanderbilt head coach Ian Duvenhage said. “I’m proud of the guys, they wouldn’t go away today. I told them that I’m happy for them and they deserved this one, but that we can still get so much better.”

For Vanderbilt (10-5, 2-4 Southeastern Conference), the match was its first at home since March 2 after having four straight matches on the road. The return home was a welcome sign for Vanderbilt, which is now 8-1 at home. With the loss, Alabama fell to 14-6 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.

The Commodores’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit was their second this season and second in a row at home. In their last home match, the Commodores trailed South Carolina 3-1 before rallying for a 4-3 Vanderbilt win.

After dropping the doubles point, Vanderbilt dug itself into a 2-0 hole against Alabama, as the Crimson Tide’s Daniel Buikema defeated Evan Dufaux, 6-4, 6-0, in the No. 4 position.

Trailing 2-0, the Commodores got their first point of the day courtesy of Nick Cromydas in the No. 3 position. Cromydas continued his hot play by winning his third straight match with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Alabama’s Sammy Struyf. The win gave Cromydas a 4-2 record in the SEC.

Just when it looked like Vanderbilt was looking to gain a little momentum in the match, the Crimson Tide were able to take a 3-1 lead in the match, as No. 88 Mathieu Thibaudeau was able to defeat Vanderbilt’s Vijay Paul (No. 101), 7-6(1), 6-4. In each set, Paul dug himself into a hole early and then had to try and dig out. In the first set, he trailed 4-2 before rallying to take a 6-5 lead.

Facing a 3-1 deficit, Vanderbilt needed to get victories in each of the three remaining matches. The situation was exactly identical to Friday’s match at Auburn, where Vanderbilt also faced a 3-1 deficit before falling 5-2.

Making the task at hand even more difficult was the fact that each Vanderbilt player lost his first set.

Despite the deficit, Vanderbilt’s Alex Zotov was able to lead the team’s momentum shift in the No. 6 position with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Alabama’s Michael Jung. The win was Zotov’s second in a row and fourth in his last five matches.

Now trailing, 3-2, Vanderbilt was able to even the match when freshman Bryant Salcedo earned the first SEC victory of his career. Salcedo topped Alabama’s Javier Bes, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 in the No. 5 position. The win couldn’t have come at a better time for Salcedo, who had lost five of his previous six matches.

Salcedo’s win set the stage for the No. 1 match between No. 75 Ryan Preston of Vanderbilt and No. 85 Saketh Myneni from Alabama. Myneni took the first set, 7-5, but Preston rallied to take the final two sets, 6-2, 6-3, thus clinching the match.

In doubles play, Vanderbilt dropped the doubles point for the third straight match, losing two of three matches.

“I thought we had a great start to doubles and then we just self destructed, and had to fight back,” Duvenhage said.

Alabama was able to win the first doubles match of the day in the No. 3 position, as the Crimson Tide’s Andrew Felsenthal and Saketh Myneni defeated Vanderbilt’s Evan Dufaux and Adam Baker, 8-4.

Vanderbilt was able to take the next doubles match, as Nick Cromydas and Bryant Salcedo continued their sizzling play in the No. 2 position. The duo moved to 8-1 this spring with an 8-4 win over Alabama’s Javier Bes and Sammy Struyf.

The Tide was able to clinch the doubles point in the No. 1 position where Alabama’s 12th-ranked duo of Daniel Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau topped VU’s Ryan Preston and Evan Dufaux, 8-5.

Up next, Vanderbilt will host No. 5 Ole Miss at 2 p.m. on Friday at the Currey Tennis Center.

Sunday’s Results:
No. 34 Vanderbilt (10-5, 2-4 SEC) def. No. 23 Alabama (14-6, 4-2 SEC), 4-3

1. No. 12 Daniel Buikema/Mathieu Thibaudeau (UA) def. Ryan Preston/Evan Dufaux (VU), 8-5
2. Nick Cromydas/Bryant Salcedo (VU) def. Sammy Struyf/Javier Bes (UA), 8-4
3. Andrew Felsenthal/Saketh Myneni (UA) def. Vijay Paul/Adam Baker (VU), 8-4

Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1

1. No. 75 Ryan Preston (VU) def. No. 85 Saketh Myneni (UA), 5-7, 6-2, 6-3
2. No. 88 Mathieu Thibaudeau (UA) def. No. 101 Vijay Paul (VU), 7-6(1), 6-4
3. Nick Cromydas (VU) def. Sammy Struyf (UA), 6-2, 6-2
4. Daniel Buikema (UA) def. Evan Dufaux (VU), 6-4, 6-0
5. Bryant Salcedo (VU) def. Javier Bes (UA) 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3
6. Alex Zotov (VU) def. Michael Jung (UA), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

Order of Finish: 4, 3, 2, 6, 5, 1