ABILENE – Abilene Christian men’s tennis celebrated the program’s first Southland Conference regular-season title Friday on its home courts of the Eager Tennis Center following a closely contested 4-3 decision over its longtime rivals from Incarnate Word, a team which defeated the Wildcats last season in San Antonio, 7-0.
In winning their fifth-consecutive conference match, the Wildcats lifted their overall record to 19-4 and went undefeated in league play (5-0) for the first time in six seasons. ACU posted a second-place 5-1 league record in 2014 – when the Southland was at six teams with Oral Roberts. The 2015 Wildcats then slipped to 1-4, before climbing back up the ladder to 3-2 and eventually winning a share of the regular-season title in 2017 at 4-1.
Last year’s team went 3-2, while the Cardinals went 5-0 following four consecutive losing campaigns.
ACU’s 19 wins additionally are tied for its most since moving into NCAA DI athletics, but the last team to win 20 or more matches was the 2012 edition (21-9) led by the likes of Hans Hach, Nick Plum, Borja Cortés, Alfredo Desiate, Gui Gesser and Michael Morris.
Back to today’s match, the overall feeling all week long was that this dual was going to be incredibly close – and the competitors did not disappoint the active crowd, which was kept on its toes for the better part of three hours until junior Jonathan Sheehy completed his three-set comeback at No. 2 over Gabriel Evans, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
All three doubles matches came down to the wire with the Wildcats holding onto a pair of 6-4 decisions at the No. 1 and 3 lines. Jonathan Sheehy and junior Nikolas Moceanu were first off the courts with a 6-4 win over Dennis Boisseau and Oliver Valentinsson at No. 3, while the top-line duo of junior Jackson Fine and senior Cole Lawson broke the serve of Evans and Sebastian Mortier, to also win 6-4.
Fine and Lawson have won their last three matches together to finish 3-0 vs. the Southland. Moceanu and Jonathan Sheehy were only paired up for the third time this spring and have a 2-1 record.
The singles’ pendulum kept swinging back and forth but the Cardinals never took the lead on the Wildcats. The visitors briefly tied the score at 1-1 when Caleb Dyer dispatched ACU freshman Akinori Wada in straight sets at No. 6, 6-2, 6-2, but the Wildcats immediately regained the lead at 2-1 after Josh Sheehy won his team-leading 16th match by defeating Mortier at No. 1, 6-3, 6-4.
The elder Sheehy went 5-0 vs. Southland opposition this spring and looks to be a shoo-in for Player of the Year. With two regular-season matches left to play, he’s also 15-4 at No. 1 and 2-3 vs. nationally ranked competition.
Mocaenu provided the Wildcats with a 3-1 lead after coming back from a set down to defeat Boisseau, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, for win No. 12 on the spring, leaving it to one of three teammates to clinch the elusive fourth point.
Freshman Riley Tran gave it a go at No. 5, tying his match at one set apiece with a 6-2 second-set win, but he then fell 6-1 in the third set to Valentinsson. Another freshman at No. 3 Dimitris Azoides won his first set vs. Paco Bendana, 7-5, but dropped the second set just as Jonathan Sheehy was beginning his third vs. Evans.
The Evans / Sheehy third set went back-and-forth through the first six points, but Sheehy kept improving as the match wore on and appeared near-dominant upon reaching match point. Jon’s victory was his 12th of the season and third vs. Southland opponents.
The Wildcats have two non-conference matches left on their schedule prior to getting to Corpus Christi, Texas the last weekend of April to defend their regular-season crown at the Southland Conference Championships. Saturday they’ll play host to UTSA at 11:44 a.m. and welcome Midwestern State Tuesday, April 23 at 5 p.m.
Abilene Christian 4, UIW 3
Apr 12, 2019 at Abilene, Texas (Eager Tennis Center)
1. #119 Josh Sheehy (ACU) def. Mortier,Sebastian (UIW) 6-3, 6-4
2. Jonathan Sheehy (ACU) def. Evans,Gabriel (UIW) 5-7, 6-3, 6-3
3. Bendana,Paco (UIW) def. Dimitris Azoides (ACU) 5-7, 7-5, 6-2
4. Nikolas Moceanu (ACU) def. Boisseau,Dennis (UIW) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2
5. Valentinsson,Oliver (UIW) def. Riley Tran (ACU) 6-2, 2-6, 6-1
6. Dyer,Caleb (UIW) def. Akinori Wada (ACU) 6-2, 6-2
1. Jackson Fine/Cole Lawson (ACU) def. Mortier,Sebastian/Evans,Gabriel (UIW) 6-4
2. Josh Sheehy/Riley Tran (ACU) vs. Bendana,Paco/Dyer,Caleb (UIW) 4-5, unfinished
3. Jonathan Sheehy/Nikolas Moceanu (ACU) def. Boisseau,Dennis/Valentinsson,Oliver (UIW) 6-4
UIW 10-7 (2-2 SLC)
Abilene Christian 19-4 (5-0 SLC)
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (6,1,4,5,2,3)
Wildcats win Southland Conference Regular-Season Title