WINONA LAKE, Ind - After two early losses in the season, the Spring Arbor University men's tennis team never lost focus, and knew that to repeat as the Crossroads League Champions, they would have to do it the harder way which was to win it on the road. So that's what they did.
The Cougars had to go through #1 seed Indiana Wesleyan on Thursday and then #2 seed Grace College today defeating both 5-3 to earn the crown and punch their ticket to the NAIA National Championship held in the spring in Mobile, Alabama.
A big difference in today's match from the last time these two teams met, was this time the Cougars carried a 2-1 advantage heading into the singles portion of play. Thomas Calderone and Aaron Mayes won 8-5 at #1 doubles and David Darling and Nathan Scholten won 9-8, reversing their earlier loss at #2 doubles. John Hall and Jesse DeBoer fell at #3 doubles.
The literal turning point of the match was at the #2 doubles position. The Cougars were trailing 8-7 and the Grace team hit what looked like it would be a winning shot that would have given them a match point. Out of nowhere, Scholten dove for the ball and made a shot that the coaches agreed was one of the most amazing shots they had seen in the last ten years. Bloodied but unbowed after that point, Scholten and his partner, David Darling, managed to win the match 9-8 in a tiebreaker. This refuse-to-lose effort spilled over into the singles.
Playing indoors due to inclement weather and with four courts to work with, the three through six singles took the court and two matches were over fairly quickly and the Cougars split those matches with Grace. Michael Darling and Matt Wojtkowski split matches with Wojtkowski winning 6-2, 6-3. Wojtkowski also turned his loss around from the first Grace match.
With the score now 3-2, Spring Arbor needed two more matches to turn their way and Nate Scholten and Aaron Mayes each split their first two sets and both were in the third sets when David Darling amd Calderone's singles matches got underway.
Both third set matches of Scholten and Mayes ended with 6-2 decisions with Scholten falling 2-6, 7-5, 2-6, and Mayes winning his 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 leaving the score now at 4-3 and needing only one of the remaining two matches of Calderone and Darling to fall the Cougars way.
Calderone decided that there was enough drama for the day and would make quick work of Daniel Sanchez winning at #1 singles 6-1, 6-1 and earn the deciding point for Spring Arbor to end the match.
Spring Arbor ends their fall season at 10-2 and Grace falls to 9-3.