Despite the stellar singles and doubles play of freshman Matthew Pearce, BYU men’s tennis came away with a 4-3 heartbreaking loss to No. 49 Pepperdine on Saturday.
The Cougars (7-12, 1-3 West Coast Conference) were a matter of a couple of points from closing out the Waves (12-11, 4-0 WCC).
“The BYU crowds got their money’s worth in an incredibly exciting finish with an up-and-down battle,” BYU head coach Brad Pearce said. “I explained to the guys after the match that we win and lose as a team. We left a point on the table by not securing the win at the No. 1 doubles.”
With the match at 3-2, pressure fell on Pearce at No. 5 singles and Aidan Carrazedo at No. 6.
Pearce handily took the first set against RJ Evangelista, 6-1, before letting the second slip away, 4-6. Desperately needing to win the third set, the freshman proved solid as he pulled through with top finishes including a backhand up close at the net to take the lead, eventually winning the set, 6-4. It was Pearce’s fourth win of the weekend, including singles and doubles matches.
“I was extremely proud of my son Matthew who played in order to keep our hopes alive. It was clutch on his part,” coach Pearce said. “In all my years of coaching, those were the two most incredible points in collegiate tennis I’ve seen.”
Following Pearce’s clutch victory, attention shifted to fellow freshman Carrazedo in the sixth singles match.
"It was good to see Aidan play well enough to put us in the position to win," Pearce said.
After losing the first set, 6-4, Carrazedo swung momentum with a second set win, 6-3. Tension built after a 4-2 lead diminished to a 5-5 deadlock in the third. The South African native took the next game against Alexander Solonin but fell in the subsequent one to force the tiebreaker. The Pepperdine opponent then took the third set, 8-7 (7-2), clinching the match in the tiebreaker.
Doubles play proved costly as BYU fell behind early in the match.
First, freshman Sterling Galli and sophomore Nikki Rae fell 8-3 in the third slot. Then, captain Francis Sargeant and freshman Pearce knotted the score by topping their opponents, 8-6, at No. 2 doubles.
The point was decided by the outcome at first doubles as Andrey Goryachkov and Robin Pfister fell to Rakshay Thakkar and Tom Hill. The duo had opportunities to secure the point as they were up 7-3. Ultimately, Pepperdine held off Goryachkov and Pfister, taking the point on an 8-7 (7-5) decision.
The Cougars’ deficit was extended as Pfister fell in two sets to Thakkar at fourth singles.
With the match score at 2-0 in favor of the Waves, BYU sparked a furious comeback.
“I thought Jeremy (Bourgeois) and Andrey did a nice job of getting wins,” coach Pearce said. “What we’re missing is taking advantage of the opportunities earned through good play by finishing the point. Through good play we’re getting right up to the finish line but not crossing the line.”
No. 3 singles player Bourgeois cruised past Kento Tanaka-Tamaki, 6-3, 6-3. Goryachkov followed his teammate with a decisive victory in second singles, 6-4, 7-5, tying the match at two apiece.
The Waves took the lead again in the No. 1 singles match as Sargeant was overpowered in a rare loss, 6-4, 6-4.
“We’re not going to cry over spilt milk,” coach Pearce added. “We’re going to focus on the positives and get ready for another weekend on the road. Hopefully we’ll get in position to get four points. We’re glad the season doesn’t have to end on this note.”
BYU continues WCC play on the road against San Francisco on Friday at 1 p.m PDT and No. 57 Santa Clara on Saturday at 1 p.m.
McKay Perry is the sports information director for BYU men's and women's tennis. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org