UH men earn shot at Fresno


POSTED: Saturday, April 25, 2009

Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said it best.

Beaman watched his Vandals prevail over Hawaii in doubles in the Western Athletic Conference men's tennis tournament quarterfinals, then fall in order on the courts that counted—singles.

“;Honestly, college tennis is a team sport, but it comes down to six individuals,”; Beaman said. “;I needed six individuals to show up, and Hawaii's a really strong team across the board. We can't just have three guys show up and hope that the doubles point will carry us.”;

Hawaii dominated the top four singles courts in taking a 4-1 decision over Idaho to advance to the WAC tournament semifinals and keep alive their dream of a second straight NCAA tournament berth. The Warriors will participate in the semifinals for the fourth straight year.

Dennis Lajola, the 60th-ranked player in the country, won at the No. 1 court, while Andy Weber got the team victory-clincher at No. 2 following victories by Leo Rosenberg and Jeff Fitch at No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.

“;The guys showed a lot of backbone,”; UH coach John Nelson said. “;We're down 1-0, had to win four of the six singles, and we stepped up. They were business. (The loss) didn't seem to affect them at all, they came out and came after (Idaho).”;

Host UH, the third seed, takes on No. 41 Fresno State, the second seed, at 3 p.m. today for a shot at the tourney finals. A little payback is also on the line for the visitors—the Warriors beat the Bulldogs for their first WAC championship last year. FSU won a tight regular-season matchup 4-3.

UH was resilient after some new doubles combinations didn't pay dividends and Idaho seized the point to jump out 1-0. Only the tandem of Lajola and Fitch was dominant with an 8-2 triumph.

But the matches of Lajola, Weber, Fitch and Rosenberg were arrayed in a row and, as each got a step on their opponent, the swing in momentum was sudden and irreversible.

Lajola aced his way past Artem Kuznetsov, 6-2, 6-1, keeping the Russian off-balance all match with his serve. A plethora of return winners earned break points on the Vandals' best player.

Moments before, Rosenberg, a freshman, retired Alex Joitoiu 6-1, 6-1 and screamed “;Let's go Hawaii!”; with a fist pump.

“;When we see our teammate doing well, we get that motivation,”; said Lajola. “;These guys are trying to win the match for us, too. But I think it's like that whoever we play. When our teammates are down, we're always fighting.”;

Fitch, the team's fastest server with offerings in the 130 mph range, knocked off Alan Shin 6-1, 6-4. Weber ended play with a crosscourt smash on Stas Glukhov for a 6-1, 6-3 win.

“;Oh, it's really good. I mean, we started off pretty bad,”; Weber said. “;I didn't care (about the doubles loss). I just had to win my match, and it was a very good match.”;