December 2, 2020

Breakthrough: Webster men’s tennis beats Westminster for first time

For the first time in program history, the Webster University men’s tennis team defeated St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Westminster College (Mo.). The Gorloks defeated the Bluejays by a 5-4 margin on Saturday, March 23 at the Webster Groves Tennis Center.

“It was excellent,” senior Ricky Eaves said. “We’ve been losing to this same team since our freshman year,  (and) we’ve never tasted victory against these guys. It gets kind of annoying because a couple of those guys started as freshmen when we were freshmen.

Senior Agustin Villalba hits a forehand during his No. 3 singles match against Westminster College (Mo.) on Saturday, March 23 at the Webster Groves Tennis Center. Villalba won his singles match 6-0, 7-6 (7-3), and the Gorloks beat Westminster for the first time in program history by a 5-4 margin. PHOTO BY CAROLINA DUEÑAS.

“And to finally get that victory, it was just something that was long overdue for all the seniors.” (For a feature story on the men’s tennis senior class, see below).

Webster coach Michael Siener said all three doubles teams did well, and that’s where the team was the strongest. Webster won two out of the three doubles matches against the Bluejays. Seniors Francisco Cortez and Agustin Villalba won their No. 1 doubles match 8-3, and seniors Diego Alarcon and Josh Sellmeyer won their No. 3 doubles match 8-2.

Eaves said this was the first time in his career that Webster led against Westminster after the doubles matches. In previous years against the Bluejays, the Gorloks were either down 3-0 or 2-1 after doubles play.

“We are usually pretty strong in singles,” Villalba said. “So definitely winning two doubles was key in being able to beat them.”

In singles play, Villalba — playing at No. 3 — won a tight second set to close out his match in straight sets, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3). Villalba said it was a tricky match because after the 6-0 first-set win, his Westminster opponent Tyler Wollmershauser got more aggressive in the second set, which brought the set to a tiebreaker. Siener said Villalba’s second set was impressive.

“It was actually fun to watch,” Siener said. “Both of those guys were playing at a pretty high level. Credit Agustin for battling back. (He) got it to a tiebreak and won the tiebreak.”

Webster led the match 4-3 after Villalba’s win with two matches left to go. Eaves said he knew the Gorloks only needed one more match to clinch the victory. The match came down to singles contests for Eaves and freshman Travis Blair.

Blair lost his No. 5 singles match in the third set, but Eaves was able to close out his No. 6 match 6-0, 6-3 to make history for the Gorloks.

“When I was about to finish the game, we were tied 3-3,” Villalba said. “I knew that Ricky was winning the first set pretty easily, so I knew if I won my match we were going to win the game. So, I was pretty excited.”

Even though Webster pulled out the victory, Siener believes his team didn’t play its best tennis. Siener said he hopes to see the Bluejays again in the conference championship.

Earlier on March 23, the Gorloks went up against another SLIAC foe, Eureka College (Ill.). Webster swept the Red Devils by a score of 9-0. Eureka’s men’s tennis team had only four players at the match.

After the two wins against Eureka and Westminster, the Gorloks have now extended their match win streak to 12. Webster is 12-1 overall.

Senior Josh Sellmeyer strikes a groundstroke during his No. 4 singles match against Westminster. Sellmeyer lost his singles match but teamed with senior Diego Alarcon to win 8-2 at No. 3 doubles. Webster won two of three doubles matches and three of six singles matches against Westminster. PHOTO BY CAROLINA DUEÑAS.

“This streak has been predicated on hard work and just trusting in our teammates,” Eaves said. “We have been fortunate enough to be on this ride of 12 straight wins, and we want to keep on going.

“I don’t think we can always think about the streak as, ‘Oh, we just got to keep on doing it,’ but we’re just going to take it one match at a time and hopefully we can make history.”

Next for Webster is a match against Lindenwood University-Belleville (Ill.) on Thursday, March 28 at 3:30 p.m. in Belleville, Ill. After that, the Gorloks will take on nationally ranked Washington University (Mo.) on Friday, March 29 at 4 p.m. at WashU. Webster then faces SLIAC opponent Greenville College on Tuesday, April 2 at 5 p.m. in Greenville, Ill.

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