Sean Barstow (left) and Brennan Cim­peanu (right) after their suc­cessful weekend
Courtesy | Hillsdale College Ath­letic Department

At the Inter­col­le­giate Tennis Asso­ci­ation Regional hosted by Grand Valley State Uni­versity, sophomore Brennan Cim­peanu became the first tennis player in program history to win the A draw singles regional title.

Cimpeanu’s six straight wins in the top singles bracket earned him an auto­matic qual­i­fying berth to the ITA Cup. No Charger, or G‑MAC player has ever earned such a berth. The ITA Cup is scheduled for Oct 14 – 17 in Rome, Georgia. 

“He had an unbe­lievable weekend,” Junior Tyler Conrad said. “He spent a lot of it not playing his best tennis, but he was able to tough it out and fight till the last point in every single match. He faced match points in the quar­ter­finals and the semi­finals, he was very close to being out of the tour­nament before he even had a chance for the title, he was able to tough it out and it was won­derful to watch, it was amazing tennis.”

Entering the tour­nament, no Charger had ever made it past the quar­ter­finals round, where Cim­peanu was knocked out last year. 

“When I got to the quar­ter­finals, I was afraid of just expe­ri­encing deja vu from last year, losing in the quar­ter­finals of both singles and doubles,” Cim­peanu said. “Once I got past my quar­ter­finals in both singles and doubles this year, I was super deter­mined to just finish through.”

Not only does Cim­peanu have a guar­anteed trip to the ITA Cup as the Midwest singles champion, but he has a shot to make it in doubles as well. Cim­peanu teamed up with fellow sophomore Sean Barstow to win four straight matches in the A draw doubles bracket, including an upset over the top-seeded team from the Uni­versity of Indianapolis.

Their weekend came to an end, however, as Davenport’s top doubles team knocked the pair off in two sets in the finals.

“I def­i­nitely think we played well, but I’m not going to take away any­thing from the Dav­enport team,” Cim­peanu said. “They played out of their minds, so I don’t think we could have done any­thing differently.”

Though a win would have given Cim­peanu and Barstow an auto­matic qual­i­fying berth to the ITA Cup doubles bracket, they still have a chance to make it to the doubles bracket. The ITA will give out eight at-large bids before the com­pe­tition in mid-October. 

Despite the loss in the finals, Head Coach Keith Turner said he was excited with the team’s overall per­for­mance at the Regional.

“It’s unbe­lievable what just hap­pened, it’s an amazing accom­plishment, I can’t over­state that,” Turner said. “Our region is one of the toughest in the country, for Brennan to win the singles, and for Brennan and Sean to make the doubles, it’s unbe­lievable, it’s fan­tastic, the guys were amazing this weekend.”

Over in the B draw doubles bracket, Sophomore Daniel Gilbert paired up with Conrad and reached the con­so­lation, or back draw, finals.

“That was the first time we’d played together, we had a tough first-round loss to Cedarville, they played well and those courts were some of the worst courts we’ve ever played on in our lives,” Conrad said. “Once we got into the back draw, we were expecting to win a few rounds, just because we were playing against the three and four teams from every team in the region.”

Though Conrad, who played the entirety of last season in the team’s one spot, lost his matches in the A draw singles bracket, he said he feels as though he’s rounding back into form after a rough start to the fall season.

“Even though my results weren’t won­derful, the Regional was a success because I was finally able to play at a high level,” Conrad said. “I was playing at a level pretty similar to where I was playing last year, so it was a big improvement from our tour­nament two weeks ago.”

Senior Brian Hackman and Freshman Jonathan Degt­yaryov were the two other Chargers to win matches this weekend. Hackman grabbed a three-set win in the back draw of the A draw singles bracket, and Degt­yaryov won the first match of his col­le­giate career in the back draw of the B draw singles bracket.

Aside from Cim­peanu, and pos­sibly Barstow, the Chargers’ fall season, the shorter of their two, has come to a close. Turner said the team has some ground to make up if they want to reach the NCAA Tour­nament again in the spring.

“Hon­estly, we’ve got some work to do, Brennan was obvi­ously amazing, but the guys need some improvement if we’re gonna get where we want to go,” Turner said. “I was a little dis­ap­pointed in some of the doubles results from the other guys, we’re def­i­nitely going to have to change some stuff up there, we’ve got a lot of work to do on the doubles side.”