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.”