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Denison drops heartbreaker to Tigers

Casey Cempre recorded two wins in Denison's 5-4 loss to #23 DePauw.
Casey Cempre recorded two wins in Denison's 5-4 loss to #23 DePauw.

The Big Red men's tennis team was one point away from avenging a loss to 23rd-ranked DePauw from a week ago. However, the Tigers rallied from a 4-1 deficit to edge Denison 5-4 in the semifinals of the 2014 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament.

With the win, DePauw (15-6) will take on 11th-ranked Kenyon in the championship match of the NCAC Tournament on Sunday.  The Big Red (13-7) will also return to the court on Sunday to face off against Allegheny in the third-place match.  Both matches will begin at 10 a.m.

Denison jumped out to a 2-0 lead in doubles play after picking up victories at first and second singles.  At No. 2, Casey Cempre and Andrew Marczak jumped out to a 5-2 lead after breaking Erica Vannatta and Alec Kaczkowski's serve twice.  The two teams traded off break points, moving the score to 6-3.  The Big Red earned the first point of the match after the teams held serve on the next three points.

At the first flight, Juan Guerra and Grant Veltman broke DePauw's serve to take a 3-2 advantage. The duo tandem extended its lead to 5-2 after holding service.  In front 6-3, the Big Red got another break to climb within one point of victory.  Guerra and Veltman held serve to pick up an 8-3 decision over Sam Miles and Ben Kopecky.

The DePauw third doubles team of Patrick Farrell and Harold Martin spoiled the doubles sweep with an 8-4 decision over Jackson O'Gorman-Bean and Jeffrey LoDuca.  Farrell and Martin broke DU's service three times en route to the victory.

Clinging to a one-point lead, Denison extended its advantage with back-to-back singles wins. Cempre got things going with a three-set victory over Farrell.  After dropping a 6-4 decision in the opening set, the DU junior rebounded with a 7-5 decision.  In the third-and-final set, Cempre shutout Farrell to give his team a 3-1 match lead.  Veltman put the Big Red ahead 4-1 with a straight-set victory over Chris Bertolini.  The junior won the opener 7-5 before doubling up Bertolini 6-3 in the second set.

Needing just one point to win, the home team saw its lead slowly dwindle away as the match continued.  Eric Bruynseels shrunk the deficit to 4-2 with a three-set (6-2, 4-6, 6-2) win over O'Gorman-Bean at fifth singles, while Matt Santen knocked off Graham Gettel 7-5, 6-2 at No. 6.

With Denison now in front 4-3, it all came down to the top two singles flights.  Kaczkowski and Marczak were in a fierce battle at second singles.  Kaczkowski won the opening set 6-4, but Marczak answered with a 6-3 in the second.  The tough match started wearing on the competetors as both athletes began experiencing leg cramps.  With the third-and-final set tied at 5-5, Marczak suffered an injury that forced him to retire.  Kaczkowski's point tied the match at 4-4.

The No. 1 singles flight featured Guerra and Miles, who faced off in singles action for the second time this season.  Last weekend, the Denison senior dropped a straight-set decision to Miles.  In Saturday's semifinal match, Miles opened with a 7-5 victory. However, Guerra rebounded with a 6-2 victory to push the flight into a third set.  In that set, Miles edged Guerra 6-4 to secure the come-from-behind win for DePauw.