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Sopho­mores Sean Barstow (left) and Brennan Cim­peanu (right) made program history making the ITA Cup
Courtesy | Brennan Cimpeanu

After already making history, the Hillsdale College men’s tennis team con­tinued to make more by winning two matches in the Inter­col­le­giate Tennis Asso­ci­ation Cup in Rome, Georgia. 

Sopho­mores Brennan Cim­peanu and Sean Barstow became the first Chargers, and first G‑MAC players, ever to play in the ITA Cup. Cim­peanu won the Midwest Regional, and the doubles team of Cim­peanu and Barstow won an at-large bid to participate. 

“The ITA Cup was a great expe­rience for us,” Head Coach Keith Turner said. “Brennan and Sean showed that they belong alongside the top players in the country.”

Cim­peanu upset the No. 3 seed Marko Nikoliuk of Southern Arkansas Uni­versity 7 – 6(6), 6 – 3 in his first match. Nikoliuk fin­ished 6th overall in the 2019 ITA Cup.

“Right away I rec­og­nized that he was a mirror reflection of my own game,” Cim­peanu said. “We both had one obvi­ously stronger shot and one weaker one. We both stayed back and focused on our ground strokes.”

Cim­peanu said he won the match by asking how he would beat himself. 

“One thing I believe is a strength to my game is my ability to change my style and adapt slightly to my opponent’s weak­nesses,” Cim­peanu said. “Since I would prefer to have shorter points, I decided to stay in the rally as long as pos­sible against him and keep the ball to his weaker side.”

After beating Nikoliuk, Cim­peanu advanced to the quar­ter­finals to face Alex Mar­tinez Roca of Mid­western State Uni­versity. Cim­peanu lost 6 – 1, 6 – 3 and then lost to Fran­cisco Oliviera from Oua­chita Baptist Uni­versity 7 – 6(8), 6 – 3. Cim­peanu fin­ished tied for 7th place in the ITA singles standings. 

“I really enjoyed the intense atmos­phere at the ITA Cup,” Cim­peanu said. “You were com­peting with the best players in Division 2 tennis so expec­ta­tions had to go up. I knew that if I wanted to do well, I had to be on top of my game.”

In doubles, Barstow and Cim­peanu played three matches. Their first match was against 4th-seeded Luca Mack and Rodrigo Car­valho from Val­dosta State Uni­versity. Barstow and Cim­peanu lost 7 – 5, 6 – 4, and Mack and Car­valho went on to be the runners-up for the doubles title. 

“One thing that I noticed that Brennan and I need to improve on is being more aggressive, espe­cially at the net,” Barstow said. “The teams that beat us were more active and aggressive at the net and that gave them a huge advantage.”

Cim­peanu and Barstow then faced off against a familiar opponent from the Midwest Regional, Dav­enport Uni­versity. The Dav­enport duo of Jonathan Bulmer and Juan-Louis van Antwerpen had defeated Cim­peanu and Barstow in straight sets in the Midwest Regional. The Charger duo answered a 6 – 3 first set loss with a 7 – 6(5) victory in the second, but lost the final set 10 – 8. 

“Going into the match we knew that we could beat them but they just played a little better than us when it counted the most,” Barstow said. “I’m looking forward to hope­fully playing them again in the spring and having another great match.”

Cim­peanu and Barstow played one last match in Georgia, against Mer­cy­hurst University’s David Akin­petide and Milan Jankovic. The Charger team won 6 – 3, 6 – 3 to finish the ITA Cup tied for 13th place. 

“I think that this tour­nament will give me more con­fi­dence going into the spring season,” Barstow said. “Seeing the com­pe­tition there made me realize that Brennan and I can compete with any doubles team in the nation.”

The Chargers have now con­cluded their fall season, and play their first match of the spring season in February. 

Turner said the success of the fall season is good for the energy, but the team needs to put together good prac­tices for the next five weeks. 

“Unfor­tu­nately injuries have been a major problem that will probably con­tinue through next semester, this has changed our outlook for the spring,” Turner said.  “Our goal now is to win the GMAC.”