|Bottom three boost UI into final|
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - After finding itself in a 3-1 hole and on the brink of elimination in the Western Athletic Conference semifinals, the bottom of the lineup stepped up huge for the Idaho men's tennis team, as the Vandals picked up three-set wins at Nos. 4, 5 and 6 singles to secure a 4-3 victory over Hawai`i to advance to Sunday's WAC championship match.
Idaho, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, will face top-seeded Fresno State in the championship match at 9 a.m. (Pacific) on Sunday.
The Vandals captured a hard-fought doubles point with wins at Nos. 2 and 3 after falling at No. 1. Hawai'i took control of the match early in singles play, with straight-set wins at Nos. 1, 2 and 3. UH's Jonathon Brooklyn topped Marius Cirstea 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1, Dmytro Kovalyov won 6-3, 6-1 over Idaho's Abid Akbar at No. 2 and Chas Okamoto topped Cristobal Ramos Salazar 7-5, 7-5 at No. 3 to give Hawai'i its 3-1 lead.
"The doubles point was critical and it came down to the wire," Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said. "We quickly went down 3-1 in singles with Cesar down a set with Jose and Alan going to a third set. Alan fought back, then Cesar bounced back and Jose clinched it under pressure in the third set."
The Vandals got back into the match with Alan Shin pulled out a 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 win at No. 6 singles to make the overall match score 3-2. Cesar Torres followed with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win at No. 5 to even the match, and Jose Bendeck sealed the deal for the Vandals with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win at No. 4 to send the Vandals to the finals. It will be Idaho's first trip to the championship match in the WAC tournament.
"It's a good accomplishment, and it gives us a great opportunity to qualify for the NCAA championships," Beaman said.
The win boosts the Vandals to 14-13 on the season. In the other semifinal, Fresno State beat Nevada 4-0.