(Courtesy of Pepperdine Media Relations)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The No. 39-ranked Pepperdine men's tennis team rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to knock off No. 22 Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Waves dropped the doubles point before delivering another inspiring singles performance, capped by Stefan Menichella's straight-set win to clinch the dual at 4-3.
With today's win, Pepperdine improves to 18-9 on the season and 59-35 all-time through 38 appearances at the NCAA Tournament. The Waves are a perfect 14-0 in the first round of tournament since 1999, when the current 64-team format was established.
Despite Pepperdine's extensive history at the NCAA Tournament, all seven Waves playing today were making their debuts at the big dance.
"I am incredibly happy for my guys," said first-year head coach Marcelo Ferreira. "The whole team has worked relentlessly since the beginning of the season, always believing that we could turn this year into something special with such a young squad. We've had our ups and downs but they never once gave up."
Ferreira's lineup today featured four first-year players and three student-athletes competing in just their second season at Pepperdine.
The Gators (14-9) stuck first, winning the doubles point. Florida extended its lead 2-0 before Lautaro Pane (Puerto Madryn, Argentina/SEADEA) put a point on the board for the Waves. The freshman chalked at 6-0, 6-3 triumph at No. 6 against Jordan Belga.
The Waves fell behind 3-1 before storming back. Pedro Iamachkine (Lima, Peru/Nebraska HS) posted his ninth-straight victory, defeating Chase Perez-Blanco by a 6-3, 7-5 tally. The rookie boasts a team-best 18-5 record in dual play in 2015.
Faced with a must-win situation, Guilherme Hadlich (Balneário Camboriú, Brazil/Colégio Energia) bounced back from a 6-3 loss in the first to defeat #63-ranked Diego Hidalgo 6-4, 6-2 in the final frames. Hadlich is now 6-1 when playing at No. 1, including a 3-1 tally against ranked opponents.
Tied 3-3, all eyes fell on court three, where Menichella (Santa Barbara, Calif./University HS) was engaged in a closely-contested battle with Gordon Watson. The first frame was decided in the tiebreaker, which went 7-5 in Menichella's favor, and set two proved to be just as close.
The two went to a tiebreaker yet again in the second stanza, and once again, Menichella emerged with the 7-5 win.
"I am so proud of the way the team represented Pepperdine today, and how they refused to lose even after being down against a very good Florida team," continued Ferreira. "I'm especially happy for Stefan. He lost a couple of heartbreakers in dual-clinching situations earlier this year, but today he was huge for us. We are ready for another battle tomorrow and will try our best to get Pepperdine to the Sweet 16."
The Waves face either #12 Wake Forest or George Washington in the second round on Saturday, May 9 at 12 p.m. (PT) Live score and video will be available here.
#39 Pepperdine 4, #22 Florida 3
1. Guilherme Hadlich (PEP) def. #63 Diego Hidalgo (UF) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
2. Elliott Orkin (UF) def. Rakshay Thakkar (PEP) 6-4, 6-3
3. Stefan Menichella (PEP) def. Gordon Watson (UF) 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5)
4. Pedro Iamachkine (PEP) def. Chase Perez-Blanco (UF) 6-3, 7-5
5. #102 Maxx Lipman (UF) def. Luca Marquard (PEP) 6-0, 6-0
6. Lautaro Pane (PEP) def. Jordan Belga (UF) 6-0, 6-3
1. #35 Maxx Lipman/Elliott Orkin (UF) def. Guilherme Hadlich/Rakshay Thakkar (PEP) 8-2
2. #55 Diego Hidalgo/Gordon Watson (UF) vs. Lautaro Pane/Pedro Iamachkine (PEP) 6-3, unfinished
3. Chase Perez-Blanco/Joshua Wardell (UF) def. Stefan Menichella/Tom Hill (PEP) 8-5
Pepperdine 18-9; National ranking #39
Florida 14-9; National ranking #22
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (5,6,2,4,1,3)