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Oct. 28, 2014

Men's tennis finish strong at Midwest Regional

Shabib shines in singles, Bellutti/Radosevic advance to doubles quarterfinals

By Kevin Liszka

The Cleveland State men’s tennis team finished the 2014 calendar year with a few of their top performers playing the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) Division I Midwest Regional Championships Thursday, Oct. 16 through Saturday, Oct. 18.

Competing against 20 other schools — a field that included Horizon League rivals the University of Detroit Mercy, University of Illinois-Chicago, Valparaiso University, Youngstown State University and defending conference champion Green Bay University — the men’s team was represented at the University of Michigan in the main singles draw by junior Joe VanMeter.

Seniors Manuel Bellutti, Ali Shabib, Jorg van der Vloet and freshman Mirko Radosevic took part in the larger singles qualifying draw — with the opportunity to play into the main draw. The main doubles saw VanMeter paired with Vloet, Bellutti with Radosevic and Shabib with freshman Colton Buffington.

In a gutsy performance on day one, Shabib won his first two matches to get within a win of qualifying for the tournament’s main singles draw.

The second day saw Shabib roll into the main draw defeating Green Bay’s Jorge Gonzalez Soler, before bowing out to Eddy Covalschi of Notre Dame in the open of the main draw.

“I’m really proud of Ali,” head coach Brian Etzkin said. “We have never had a player qualify into the main draw before, where the pressure is on and you have to win three matches to get in.”
Etzkin credits Shabib’s strong performance this year to his commitment to the conditioning program this offseason.

“He lost 15 pounds over the summer and his body is feeling really good right now and he is playing with a lot of momentum,” he said.

VanMeter also lost a tough match in the opening round of the main draw to a competitor from the University of Notre Dame.

“Joe lost focus toward the end of his match, but big picture he has transformed his game from last year and has been playing really well of late,” Etzkin said.

Bellutti and Radosevic proved strong as doubles notching a pair of wins ­­— including one over a heavily favored Ohio State University duo — to advance to the quarterfinals of the main doubles draw before falling to a fifth-seeded duo from host Michigan.

“I just kind of threw them together,” Etkzin said. “It wasn’t a team I was planning on using.”
Their run was made even more impressive by the fact that coach Etzkin said Bellutti played the tournament with an injured wrist.

“The two of them are very talented,” he said. “They were lobbing and chipping shots — things you don’t normally want to do when playing doubles — but they just found a way.”

The men will resume play at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indiana (IUPUI), Jan. 16. At that point, the team will begin to gear up toward another conference title — their sixth in eight years.

“I feel like we have a real strong, deep team this year,” Etzkin said.

“This is a veteran team and I really want to get one more win to kind of cement the legacy — one that really spans two generations of tennis,” Etzkin said.