Eagles heading to Sweet 16

Zane Clodfelter

The USI men’s tennis program has won six GLVC championships, including a title this season, but never before had the program reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 40 USI (17-4) made history as the program’s first to make it to the Sweet 16 with a 5-0 win over No. 34 Ferris State (16-6), propelling the Eagles to the Sweet 16 in Surprise, Ariz.

“Its just great – first time in school history,” said USI Head Coach Chris Crawford. “For the seniors, there is no better way to go out than this.”

The Eagles jumped on Ferris State early, sweeping the Bulldogs in doubles play 3-0, behind an 8-6 win for sophomore Michael Kuzaj and his doubles teammate senior Juan Quiroz while senior Ben Boesing and partner freshman Jack Joyce won their match 8-4 after breaking serve the opening game. Senior Rodrigo Flores and junior Santiago Lopez completed Eagles sweep in doubles play with an 8-3 win.

“We really came out and set the tone,” Crawford said. “I think you could tell in the doubles matches that we were a little more patient than they were and it worked out for us.”

Boesing continued to lead the Eagles in singles play, beating Razvan Mag of Ferris State 6-2, 6-1, extending his winning streak to 18 matches while notching his 84th career win as an Eagle.

“Singles is where I’m most confident,” Boesing said. “I just came out trying to help my teammates get some confidence and get a win. I figured if my teammates saw me come out playing well it would pump them up.”

Rounding out the scoring in singles play for USI was Joyce and his 6-1, 6-2 win over Otto Keresztes, with the remaining matches for Kuzaj, Quiroz, and Lopez going unfinished after the Eagles clinched the necessary points to advance.

The Eagles will now face the University of California-San Diego (13-11) on May 8, and Lopez hopes he and his teammates can continue their success for as long as they can.

“We are like family right now,” Lopez said, adding that he’ll miss his senior teammates once the season finally draws to a conclusion.

Despite advancing where no team has gone before for the Eagles, Boesing said he and his teammates feel little pressure about advancing to the NCAA nationals.

“The pressure is off on us a little bit because we have never been to nationals before,” Boesing said.

His head coach echoed those thoughts as well.

“Anything else beyond this is icing on the cake,” Crawford said. “This year we knew we had a good opportunity to win, and we did it.”