In the annual rivalry match, the story was bitter to sweet to bitter as No. 70 BYU fell to Utah, 5-2, in the Deseret First Duel on Saturday at the Eccles Tennis Center.
In unlikely fashion after losing the doubles point, the Cougars (5-7) almost pulled off the comeback against the Utes (9-2) for what would have been the fifth win in a row in the rivalry match.
“First, we want to congratulate Utah on the win,” BYU head coach Brad Pearce said. “We felt that we were the underdog coming in. Our No. 1 player from last season decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility and turned pro, we lost two key players from last year’s lineup to missions, and we have a young team with eight freshmen. Our goal was to come out with a lot of energy and team spirit in doubles, but I felt we fell far short of that.”
The match began bitterly as Utah claimed wins at second and third doubles to take the doubles point.
BYU fought back in singles and into the position to record the huge comeback.
“After regrouping, we refocused on the game plan with great energy and great team spirit,” coach Pearce said. “I was extremely proud of the way we fought back in singles. We were in a sweet position to have a comeback for the books, but unfortunately it turned to bitter.”
At third singles, freshman Robin Pfister fell to Alejandro Medinilla, 6-4, 6-1, but fellow freshman Jeremy Bourgeois put BYU on the board with his victory at No. 4 singles over Cedric Willems, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
With the match at 2-1 in favor of the Utes, No. 91 Francis Sargeant overpowered No. 87 Slim Hamza in two sets, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, knotting the match at 2-2.
Utah regained the lead as Matthew Pearce fell in three sets, 6-1, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1.
The Cougars then put themselves in position at second and sixth singles to close out a possible sweet comeback victory, but the match trended toward bitter as both BYU players fell in three sets.
At No. 2 singles, sophomore Andrey Goryachkov was leading 5-2 in the third set before falling to Ben Tasevac, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5.
After winning the first set at No. 6 singles, Jacob Sullivan also had the chance to finish his opponent as he led 3-1 in the tiebreaker of the second. The freshman ultimately lost to Matt Cowley in the set and could not swing the momentum in the third, falling 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-1.
“We have to give credit where credit is due,” coach Pearce said. “But we have a lot to look forward to with a great recruiting class next year and missionaries returning home in the future. The only way we’ll get better is by working hard in preparation for Idaho.”
Next up, BYU returns home against Idaho on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. MST at the Indoor Tennis Courts.
McKay Perry is the sports information director for BYU men's and women's tennis. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org