Wildcat Men’s Tennis Sweeps Main Flights at Louisville Invitational
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In a dominant performance over the course of the weekend, the Kentucky men’s tennis team captured the top four trophies of the Louisville Invitational.
Junior Nils Ellefsen and senior Kevin Lai took the “A” and “B” singles flights titles, respectively, before pairing up to earn the “A” doubles championship. Sophomore Jake Stefanik and freshman Austin Hussey paired up for the “B” doubles crown.
“It was a great weekend for us as a team,” Ellefsen said. “We all got a lot of matches in and earned a lot of wins. I am very pleased with my own performance, but am also proud of my teammates for the way in which they fought and competed.”
“I thought I did well this weekend,” Lai added. “It’s always good to fight for every match, and especially for me to give everything I’ve got since it’s my senior year. I definitely gained some confidence and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”
Ellefsen and Lai highlighted singles play, each taking top honors in their respective flight. Ellefsen tore through the competition in the first two rounds of singles play, downing Morehead State’s Ritchie Kruunenberg 6-1, 6-2 before a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Indiana’s Elliot Yee for a berth in the quarterfinals. He then battled past Lipscomb’s Rob Mitchell 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 before downing Louisville’s Brandon Lancaster 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 for a spot in the finals. Ellefsen faced Middle Tennessee State’s Gian Issa in the title match, leaving with a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
For Lai, the run to the title began with a three setter against Butler’s Ari Gerstein where Lai prevailed 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. The senior’s next two matches both had tiebreakers, with Lai taking down Purdue’s Renan Hanayama 7-6(4), 6-4 before earning his spot in the semifinals with a 7-6(2), 6-3 victory over Morehead State’s Nick Mercer. Lai would go three against Louisville’s Michael Quang, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 to earn a finals berth. Lai hoisted the trophy following a 6-2, 6-4 win over Adrian Mag of Butler.
Both Stefanik and Hussey made the quarterfinal round of the “A” flight before falling in singles play. Stefanik topped Marquette’s Alvaro Verdu (7-5, 6-3) and Indiana’s Stefan Lugonjic (6-2, 6-4), while Hussey earned victories over Murray State’s Will True (6-1, 7-6(1)) and Indiana’s Raheel Manji (6-1, 3-6, 6-3).
“I thought I played well and that this was a step in the right direction,” said Stefanik on the weekend. “I’m really proud of my teammates. I need to keep working hard and get back on the practice courts.”
In doubles, all four Wildcats competing walked away with hardware, as Ellefsen and Lai took the top flight, while Stefanik and Hussey took the “B” flight title. The upperclassmen began their run with an 8-3 win over Marquette before downing Austin Peay in a tightly contested 8-5 bout. Ellefsen and Lai bested a duo from Northwestern Ohio, 8-5, before playing rivals Louisville in the final match, where they prevailed, 8-4.
In the B flight, Hussey and Stefanik opened with staunch competition from Lipscomb where the Wildcats won with an 8-7(6) tiebreaker. From there, the underclassmen took an 8-4 win over Butler and a 8-3 victory against Indiana for a place in the finals, once again against Louisville. Stefanik and Hussey kept rolling, as an 8-3 victory earned them the flight title.
“I’m very proud of our guys this weekend, they competed very well,” said volunteer assistant coach Grant Roberts. “It’s always nice to go to a tournament and bring home four trophies. We need to ride this momentum into the next tournament and finish the fall on a high note.”
The Wildcats round out their fall schedule beginning on Nov. 12, when they head down to Athens, Ga., to compete in the Bulldog Scramble.