Instead of heading to the beaches for spring break, the Idaho men’s tennis team took to the road for a gauntlet of matches in Utah and Arizona. The Vandals went 1-2 during the week, losing two conference matchups and falling from the top of the Big Sky conference.
The Vandals started their first match against the Thunderbirds with a loss in doubles play. The Vandals were short a team and forfeited one of the three matchups. Junior Mark Kovacs and sophomore Felipe Fonesca notched the only point for Idaho, wining 6-1.
In singles, Idaho failed to match the pace of Southern Utah. The early deficit only got larger when the Vandals were again forced to forfeit. Down 2-0, the Thunderbirds extended the lead. Kovacs fell to No. 1 Conor Tordoff in extended sets, while sophomore Lucas Coutinho fell 7-5, 6-4.
Junior Felipe Fonseca gave Idaho a spark after a blowout win against Micah Alba 6-0, 6-0 on court No. 2. Freshman Esteban Santibanez followed suite, giving the Vandals another crucial point.
The Thunderbirds sealed the win after Cedric Rupa overcame freshman Peter Shin in the final tie-breaking point.
Idaho succeeded in breaking its two-loss streak against Grand Canyon the following day. The Vandals’ chances at a win looked unlikely after another loss in doubles competition. However, strong play from Idaho’s top players helped the Vandals get back in the match.
Kovacs played in the longest match of the day against Francois Musitelli. Two out of the three sets were decided by tiebreakers, and Kovacs eventually finished on top.
Fonesca and freshman Carlos Longhi Neto also battled in tiebreaker-ridden matches. Fonesca defeated Adrian Legarretta after a strong finish. Longhi Neto had no such luck.
Santibanez and freshman Guilherme Scarpelli rounded out the day for Idaho with two more singles points, and Idaho finished the match with a 4-2 win over Grand Canyon.
By the time the team reached its third match in three days, the Vandals seemed to be feeling the heat. Idaho fell to Northern Arizona 4-3.
Kovacs and Longhi Neto tried to help the Vandals repeat their doubles success from the previous match with a 6-4 win, but the Lumberjacks outlasted Idaho’s remaining two teams and jumped out to an early lead.
In singles, Longhi Neto and Scarpelli boosted Idaho into the lead on the third and sixth courts. Kovacs failed to fend off Tim Handel on court No. 1 and lost 6-4, 6-3. Northern Arizona strung together two more win against Santibanez and Coutinho to go up 4-2. Longhi Neto’s 6-3, 6-2 win on court No. 2 would not be enough to give Idaho a fighting chance.
The Vandals (8-5, 3-2) saw their lead in the Big Sky slip away after two conference losses. Now sitting in seventh place, Idaho looks to improve its chances at reaching the post season March 18 against Weber State.
Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill