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May 1, 2014

Tennis teams fall in championship round in Ann Arbor

By Lalita Smith

Cleveland State University’s tennis teams opened play of the Horizon League Tournament Saturday, April 26 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The womens team ended the regular season with record of 11-11 — which earned them a share of the Horizon League regular season title for the first time in program history.

“They really stuck together and kept believing in each other,” said head coach Brian Etzkin. “We went 2-9 for the first half of the season and then 9-2 the second half. The ability of them to get through the hard times really meant a lot at the end of the season.”

The Vikings are co-winners of the title, sharing the spot with Milwaukee.

The Vikings entered the tournament as the No.1 seed — another program first.

If any pressure was felt by the Vikings — having never held this coveted position — it couldn’t been seen as the Vikings began tournament play Saturday with an exciting 4-1 victory in the semi-finals match against Detroit.

“I’m proud to be in the finals again this year, and it is a great feeling getting the victory today,” said coach Etzkin in a post-game press release. “Our final challenge of the Horizon League season is to now beat the one team we didn’t beat during the regular season.”

Unfortunately for the Vikings, they couldn’t meet that challenge, losing their championship match to the No. 3 ranked Youngstown.

Despite the best efforts of players like Victoria Bensimon, who ended the season on a nine game win streak — a team best — the Vikings were unable to match double wins with the Penguins, and lost the match 4-2.

Cleveland State’s men’s tennis team also advanced to the Horizon League Tournament this season — doing so as defending champs having won the tournament title last year after defeating Green Bay 4-3 in their championship match.

The Vikings were no stranger to tournament play or being tournament champions, having won the title 5 of the past 6 years.

They also entered the tournament as a high seed — coming in as the No. 2 seed with a conference record of 5-1.

“We’re a really deep team, the depth of our key was one of your key contributors, also our doubles [was] very good down the stretch,” said Etzkin.

The Vikings came into tournament play with a strong start Saturday—earning an early lead against Youngstown which they maintained throughout play, defeating the Penguins 4-2.

In a strange twist of fate the Vikings moved on to play no other than the top-seeded Green Bay in their championship match — the team they beat last year in championship play.

Sadly, the Vikings were unable to defend their title, despite the efforts of key players like Joe VanMeter—who battled for a three-set singles win and ended the season on a team-best 16 singles win streak, the team fell to Green Bay, 4-3.

“It is a long way off, but hopefully we can match up with them again next year in the championship match and put on another great show of collegiate tennis,” said Etzkin in a recent press release.

Etzkin, who has coached Cleveland State tennis for that past 12 years—earned his fourth Coach of the Year award this season.

In spite of their respective losses in championship matches, the Vikings had phenomenal, record-breaking seasons and will return next year in hopes of chasing down the highly sought-after Horizon League tournament title.