2002-03 men's tennis season recap
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs men's tennis team closed its season at a place where few expected them to be in the first place - the regional tournament.
The Mountain Lions were beaten 5-1 by Northwest Missouri State on Saturday in the first round of the Southeast Regional Tournament. The score, however, was not indicative of the match any more than CU-Colorado Springs' 10-5 record was indicative of how remarkable a season 2002-03 proved to be.
In doubles play, Ronnie Stutz and Jason Schultz gave CU-Colorado Springs its only point when they defeated Lander Panera and Alen Horvat 8-3. For Stutz and Schultz, who were named second-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference a week ago, it was perhaps their most dominant match of the year.
"Everything just clicked," said Stutz. "In doubles, the most important things are serving, returning and volleying. We did all three well.
"Everything seemed to fit."
It appeared that everything would fit for the Mountain Lions' No. 1 doubles paring also. Seniors Tim Hurlbert and Eric Gladding, playing only their fourth match together this season, were battling point-for-point with the regionally ranked duo of Jon Sanchez and Jarrod Smith. Gladding and Hurlbert even held a brief lead before fading down the stretch and falling 6-8.
Down 2-1, CU-Colorado Springs needed to win four of its five doubles matches to advance to the regional final. Travis Sellentin, Hurlbert and Stutz all held early leads.
Sellentin was the first to fall, as he faded to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat. Schultz had already been beaten 6-2, 6-0. Down 4-1, one more loss meant the end of CU-Colorado Springs' season.
Hurlbert held a comfortable lead in his match against Smith. Jason Bisanti and Gladding had not yet taken the court. So there was Stutz, trying to keep his team alive.
Stutz held a 5-4 lead in the first set, but Sanchez broke his serve to tie the match at 5. Both players held serve to force a first-set tiebreaker.
"(Sanchez) really served well in the tiebreaker," said Stutz.
Sanchez rode that serve to a 7-4 tiebreaker win. He rolled to a 6-2 victory in the second set, allowing Northwest Missouri State to advance to the finals, where the Bearcats beat Metro State to earn a berth in the national tournament.
"I was really happy with the way I played," said Stutz. "(Sanchez) was the best player I faced all year."
The loss, though disappointing, was a fitting capstone to an unlikely rise for the Mountain Lions this season. After struggling to a 5-9 record in 2001-02, they became the first CU-Colorado Springs men's tennis team to play in an RMAC championship game and only the second to compete at regionals.
"They're (Northwest Missouri State) a good team, but the result is a little misleading," said Stutz. "We played them really close.
"Winning in doubles with (Schultz) was great. It's nice to end on such a good note."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured