The ASU men's tennis team got its sweet revenge over Pepperdine University in a 4-3 win Sunday afternoon at the Whiteman Tennis Center in Tempe. Last season, the Sun Devils were defeated 4-3 at Pepperdine.
"We've been working really well as a team," said junior Jacob Bullard. "We lost to both San Diego and Pepperdine this weekend last year, 4-3 both times. So it feels really good to come back and beat them this year."
Sophomore Murphy Cassone led the charge with a three-set classic (3-6, 6-3, 6-3) over Pepperdine graduate student No. 31 Daniel De Jonge to clinch the win for the Sun Devils. However, the score doesn't do the match much justice. There were multiple occurrences during the third set where Cassone had his back against the wall.
"I didn't play my best tennis today," Cassone said. "But once I saw the guys line up to watch, I knew I had to just lock it in and win with what I had today."
ASU was defeated in doubles to kick off the day, but all of the matches were as close as they could be with just two losses. The combination of Cassone and Bullard was defeated by De Jonge and graduate student Tim Zeitvogel 7-6, while freshman Constantinos Koshis and junior Nicola Cigna were defeated 7-6 by Waves freshmen Maxi Homberg and Max Wuelfing.
After losing the doubles point, head coach Matt Hill knew the rest of the day wasn't going to be easy for the Sun Devils.
"We knew that they're (Pepperdine) a really tough team," Hill said. "They're deep all the way through the lineup. So we knew every match was gonna be a really tough one. So to get over the hump against a team like that, without the doubles point is a tall order for the guys. And they really stepped up today. It was super impressive."
The singles are where the sun started to shine for the Sun Devils.
The two freshmen, Koshis and Roi Ginat secured two of the four points for ASU Sunday with Koshis getting a two-set win (6-4, 6-2) over Pepperdine's Homberg, while Ginat closed out junior Pietro Fellin in two razor-close sets (7-5,7-5). Bullard fought a tough three-set match and came out victorious, defeating senior Eric Hadigan 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.
It all came down to Cassone on court one, and Hill's number one option came through yet again, clinching a win and a 4-2 record on the season for the Sun Devils. In spite of the win Sunday, Hill said there is still a lot to improve on.
"We're getting what we want in the matches. We're setting things up the way we want them, but we're just not executing at the highest level that you need to against the best teams by country," Hill said. "All of them have a couple of things that over the next couple of weeks we're really going to try to sharpen up on."
The Sun Devils take a break until Feb. 24, when they host their annual eight-team invite at home.
Edited by Piper Hansen.
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Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.