April 7, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. – With a 3-0 lead and a comfortable advantage in two other singles contests, the win seemed all but sealed for Army men’s tennis in their annual Gold Star showdown with Navy. But the Midshipmen mounted a comeback to tie it 3-3 before freshman Caison Best broke his competitor in the third set to clinch the Black Knights’ 4-3 win on Sunday afternoon at Lichtenberg Tennis Center.
Army (14-5, 4-0 Patriot League) sophomore Peter Sienko and junior Henry Jang-Milsten took less than half an hour to win their doubles match, 8-1, over Navy’s (14-10, 2-1 PL) Alex Gaines and Alex Sisk at No. 3. The other two doubles contests were a different story as both proved to be a battle.
Down quickly 4-1 at No. 2, senior Rashad Shelton and freshman Austin McCasin would not go away. The pair found themselves behind 5-2 before mounting an incredible comeback by winning three of the next four games to close the gap to 6-5.
Meanwhile on Court 1, junior Asika Isoh and freshman Harrison McCormick attempted to give themselves some room by breaking Navy (Calvin Mark, Peter McDonald) to take a 5-3 advantage. The Midshipmen broke right back to take a 6-5 lead over Isoh and McCormick.
Down 7-6, Shelton and McCasin used a rowdy crowd to capture the momentum and win two straight to clinch the doubles point, 9-7. Isoh and McCormick needed an extra set to dispose of Mark and McDonald as well, as the Black Knights swept all three doubles contests with a 9-8(7-4) victory at No. 1.
The Black Knights switched from their all-black uniforms to all-white for the singles matches as Army came out white hot. McCormick made the lead 2-0 after a straight-set win, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 6 over Alex Gaines. Shortly after, Isoh pushed Army to the brink of clinching by defeating Calvin Mark 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1.
The match appeared to be all but over after Sienko won his first set 6-1 and was one game away from clinching the second before Navy’s Nicholas Gutsche battled back in the second for a 7-5 win.
The Midshipmen captured the next two points as Shelton fell at No. 2 and sophomore Alex Van Velzer lost at No. 4, both in straight sets.
The match came down to Sienko fighting in the third set and freshman Caison Best trying to complete a straight-set victory at No. 3. Sienko fought hard at No. 5 but was noticeably hampered in the final set as Gutsche clinched the point with a 7-5 third-set win.
Best and fellow plebe Austin Jones traded sets and then went point for point in the third as the tension grew at Lichtenberg. Best served back-to-back aces in the ninth game en route to taking a 5-4 lead. Jones struck just once in what proved to be the final game of the match as Best broke Jones to clinch the Gold Star win for the Black Knights.
“That was a great match,” said Army head coach Jim Poling. “We had Navy down and they’re fighters and came back. It was tremendous. I’m proud of both teams – that’s what college tennis is all about. The way Caison Best battled – he’s shown he can do that all season. He played great down the stretch; it was amazing.”
The day’s score marked the fourth consecutive Star Match that was decided by 4-3 and eighth time out of the last nine. Despite Army winning three of the last four Star Matches, Navy maintains an all-time advantage of 49-29 and 58-33 overall.
Following the Navy match, Army will hit the road for its final two regular-season contests of the season. The Black Knights will wrap up conference play at Bucknell on April 12 and at Colgate on April 13. The Bison are 10-5 so far this season with three matches scheduled prior to the showdown with Army. The Raiders are 7-7 with matches against Bucknell and Lehigh on the docket before Army.