Marion, AL—Thursday afternoon's men's tennis match with Coastal Alabama Community College-South was a wild and wooly affair from start to finish. Two of the three doubles contests went down to the wire, and three of the singles contests were nail-biters. MMI staved off defeat on numerous occasions throughout the duration of the match, prevailing in a squeaker, 5-4.
In the doubles contests, MMI and Coastal Alabama split the first two matches. MMI took the No. 1 doubles contest, 8-6. Blake Brown and Nathan Johnsen outlasted Jacob Stokes and Nathan Walton. Coastal Alabama handled Linus McFarland and Jordan Harris at No. 3 doubles, 8-4. The No. 2 doubles contest was a seesaw affair, with Haystacks Calhoun (aka Coastal Alabama) on one end of the seesaw and Twiggy (aka MMI) on the other side. Coastal Alabama sent MMI skyward, blasting out to a 1-5 lead. Then the seesaw roles reversed, and MMI catapulted Coastal Alabama into the stratosphere, eventually knotting the match at 8 games apiece and sending the match into tiebreaker territory. MMI won the tiebreaker handily, 7 points to 1.
Brown put up MMI's first point in singles play, defeating Jacob Stokes at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 6-1, and Linus McFarland, at No. 6 singles, came through with a 6-0, 7-5 win for the Tigers. Coastal Alabama won three matches at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 5 singles to even the match at 4-4.
With the overall match in the balance, it was up to Johnsen to step up his game, and step up his game he did. Johnsen, with a 6-4, 5-3 lead and the ninth game at deuce, clipped the top of the tape with the 22nd shot in an exhausting barrage of shots, producing a net cord dribbler to set up match point. On match point, he then sent a blistering backhand passing shot up the line to seal the W for the Tigers.
"I was very proud of and very happy for Nathan," MMI coach Charles Wright said. "He has worked a great deal on his serve and his overall game. Nathan, by and large, just goes out there and hits the ball as hard as he can. His hitting style is akin to asteroids crashing toward Earth. You never know where and when those balls will go hurtling by your head. You have to be ever mindful on the court or you will have a new Wilson tattoo on your head, arm, or leg. But today, Nathan was actually thinking out there on the court. The transformation was refreshing to see and pretty amazing."
In the women's match, MMI's Ksenia Vasilyev continued her winning ways at No. 1 singles, defeating Madelyn Stewart, 6-1, 6-1. Vasilyev is now 5-0 in Alabama Community College Conference play. And Gianna Azzaro played a very nice match at No. 2 singles, losing in a tight three-set match, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6.
Next up for the men's team is Martin Methodist College. The match has a 2:00 p.m. start time on Monday, March 11. The RedHawks play their home matches at Magazine Road Park in Pulaski, TN.