CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's tennis team earned a momentous 4-3 victory over No. 64 Oklahoma State on Saturday to take third place in the 46th Annual HEB Tournament of Champions at the Thomas J. Henry Tennis Center. Aurelien Tave finished off Chris Haworth at No. 2 singles with an ace to ice the match for the Islanders, who improved to 7-7 on the year.
"I'm unbelievably proud of the Islanders men today," Director of Tennis Steve Moore said. "The third match of this tournament is always the toughest and everyone's legs are gone, so it's all about heart and character. And that's exactly what they showed today."
Moore was also quick to complement the Cowboys for their performance throughout the weekend.
"I have so much respect for [OSU] Coach [James] Wadley in his 40th and final season at OSU," Moore said. "He is a Hall of Fame coach and has always been a great friend and mentor to me. Them coming to play the HEB in his final year is an honor for the Islanders and the city of Corpus Christi. He is a great man and a total class act.
"Anytime we beat a Big 12 team, we have to max out, and we really did today."
The Islanders have now beaten three Big 12 teams over the last four years (Nebraska, Texas Tech, OSU). A&M – Corpus Christi took two matches from nationally ranked teams over weekend and has played 10 of its 14 matches against teams in the Top 75 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.
The Islanders wound up ahead right out of the gate, as Oklahoma State (4-5), hindered by injuries, conceded the No. 6 singles position and No. 3 doubles position. With the Islanders needing one of the two doubles matches to take a 2-0 advantage, the Cowboys came up huge, with Eric West/Haworth toppling Tave/Peter Nagy, 8-5, and Rifat Bitkayov/Trevor Horstmann knocking off Gergo Weidinger/Alex Pavlov, 9-7. That evened the match at 1-1 heading to singles.
Nagy fell at the No. 1 singles position to start things off, 6-4, 6-3, but Pietro Jordao came through with a strong performance at No. 5, knocking off Brandon Champagne 6-3, 6-3 to even things at 2-2. Nathan Robinson, playing at No. 3, put up a hard fight against Eric West, but came up on the short end of a 6-3, 7-5 score, putting the Cowboys ahead 3-2. Then, at No. 4, Fernando Llorens delivered a tremendous victory over Horstmann, 7-5, 6-2, to even the match 3-3.
"Fernando and Pietro are growing and maturing so much," Moore said. "I'm very proud of them."
So it all came down to Tave and Haworth. Tave took the first set in tiebreak, 7-6, to earn a 1-0 lead. But in the second set, Haworth bounced back to take a 3-1 lead heading to his serve. Tave earned a crucial break to trim it to 3-2, then pushed it to 3-3 with a win at his serve. Haworth got a game on serve to make it 4-3, then Tave took the next two games to go to the serve up 5-4. The senior then finished off Haworth with an ace to give the Islanders the victory.
"The courage and guts Aurelien showed were unbelievable. He rose up so big when we needed him," Moore said. "But to be honest, he has always done that. A pure fighter with the biggest heart ever – that's Aurelien."
New Mexico took the title at the HEB with a 4-1 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, which finished as runner-up. In the fifth-place match, South Alabama knocked off Middle Tennessee State 4-2, while DePaul posted a 4-2 win over Western Michigan to garner seventh place.
A&M – Corpus Christi returns to the Henry Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. for a match against South Alabama. Admission is free for all spectators, but those who can't make it to Nile Drive to watch the match in person can follow the action on Twitter @IslandersTennis.
Tennis Match Results
Oklahoma State vs Texas A&M - Corpus Christi
3/3/2012 at Corpus Christi, Texas
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 4, #64 Oklahoma State 3
1. Rifat Biktyakov (OSU) def. Peter Nagy (AMCC) 6-4, 6-3
2. Aurelien Tave (AMCC) def. Chris Haworth (OSU) 7-6 (7-0), 6-4
3. Eric West (OSU) def. Nathan Robinson (AMCC) 6-3, 7-5
4. Fernando Llorens (AMCC) def. Trevor Horstmann (OSU) 7-5, 6-2
5. Pietro Jordao (AMCC) def. Brandon Champagne (OSU) 6-3, 6-3
6. Alex Pavlov (AMCC) def. Adolfo Aires (OSU), by default
1. Eric West/Chris Haworth (OSU) def. Peter Nagy/Aurelien Tave (AMCC) 8-5
2. Rifat Biktyakov/Trevor Horstmann (OSU) def. Gergo Weidinger/Alex Pavlov (AMCC) 9-7
3. Andrew Maingot/Nathan Robinson (AMCC) vs. Adolfo Aires/Brandon Champagne (OSU) unfinished
Oklahoma State 4-5; National ranking #64
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 7-7
Order of finish: Doubles (); Singles (6,1,3,4,5,2)