Navy Rallies to Win Star in Men's Tennis

Navy's team captain Sasha Panyan lost the first 10 games of his No. 1 singles match, but rallied to win a three-set decision and record the match-clinching point in a 4-1 victory over Army, Saturday afternoon at the USNA Tennis Courts in Annapolis.

by Navy Sports Information

Team captain Sasha Panyan lost the first 10 games of his No. 1 singles match, but rallied to win a three-set decision and record the match-clinching point for the Navy men's tennis team in a 4-1 victory over Army, Saturday afternoon at the USNA Tennis Courts in Annapolis.

The match between the Mids (26-14, 5-2) and the Black Knights (12-14, 4-2) was the annual Star Match, part of the Army-Navy Star Series presented by USAA. 

"Sasha Panyan really sticks out," said head coach Chris Garner was asked about his thoughts on the match. "He was in a big hole. He started to find himself and find a way back into the match. You could see his confidence begin to grow. His game began to come together. I think everyone knows he is a terrific player. It was just a matter of him going out, doing what he was capable of doing and giving himself a chance."

"These matches; so much growth happens for these young men whether they are from Navy or Army. It is really cool to see all of them who get to take part in this and get to deal with the emotions and everything that comes with it."

Chris GarnerNavy Head Coach

Navy played well in earning the doubles point. The No. 2 team of Aniketh Ayinala and J.J. Etterbeek dropped the first game of its match against Marcus Sebastian and Alan Ton, but then won the next six games to be the first match off the courts.

The Mids gained the 1-0 lead when their No. 3 tandem of Herrick Legaspi and Nathan Nguyen defeated Samuel Haikal and Michael Rooney by the score of 6-2. The teams were on serve through the opening two games, then Navy won the next three to take a 4-1 lead. Army held (4-2), Navy held (5-2), then the Mids broke the Black Knights to earn the point.

Army's Vishnu Bodavula and Huarte held a 4-3 lead and were up a break on Luke Garner and Panyan was the match was halted.

"We were able to get some (early) momentum in doubles and ride it to wins at two and three," said Garner. "That was really good to see."

The Mids entered the day with a 22-2 record this season when they won the doubles point and the Black Knights had compiled a 2-11 record on the year when they lost the doubles point. However, Army's two most recent victories this season came after it had lost the doubles point.

The Black Knights had a great start in singles in an effort to make it three similar match wins in a row as they won the first set in four of the six singles matches. However, the Mids won the first match to finish as Etterbeek posted a 6-2, 6-2 win over Ton at No. 5 singles. The lead was quickly cut in half to 2-1 as Haikal defeated Garner, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 3 singles.

Navy seemed to find a good rhythm across all courts as most of the singles matches entered their second sets. In each of the three remaining matches in which Army had won the first set, Navy bounced back to win the second set. That included Panyan, Herrick Legaspi at No. 2 and Steve Nguyen at No. 4.

"I think you have to credit Army," said Garner, of the Mids falling behind in four of the six singles matches.  "They came out fantastic in singles.  They weren't giving points away and they really brought a very high level of play.  I think our guys, once they saw their opponents and get an idea of what they needed to do to chip away at their deficits, the match slowly started to ship in our favor.  I think our guys were able to raise their level when they were coming back in the second sets.  That was the difference in the match.  But Army really was playing extremely well after doubles."

While those three matches entered third sets, in the remaining match Ayinala won the last two games of the second set with a hold and a break in his No. 6 singles match against Marcus Sebastian to win, 6-4, 7-5, and make the score 3-1.

"J.J. and Aniketh being able to secure a couple of straight set wins; that's very impressive by them," said Garner.  "They were playing two really good players.  Herrick and Steve being able to push through to third sets; that was impressive on their part." 

Meanwhile on court one, Jake Huarte took a 6-0, 4-0 lead on Panyan.  The tide quickly turned as Panyan won the next six games to win the second set (6-4) and then won the first game of the third set to give him seven-straight game wins.  Huarte held serve (1-1), then Panyan held serve, broke Huarte and held again to take a 4-1 lead.  

"My coach, Chris Garner; putting my trust in him," said Panyan as to the reason for the turnaround in the middle of the second set.  "It was what was needed from the beginning.  I didn't quite trust him to the fullest (at the start).  As a result I made some dumb plays on my part.  That cost me a lot of games and momentum.  But then the crowd and my teammates got behind me and that really helped a lot."

Each player held on their next respective serving opportunity (5-2), then Panyan broke Huarte to close out play for the day with a dramatic 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

"The feeling was surreal," said Panyan of clinching match point.  "I have never really had a big clinch like that in my career here.  To have it in my last home match ... I couldn't have asked for anything more."

Navy has now won eight Star Matches in a row and 10-straight matches in the series.  The teams could meet again in one week during the Patriot League Tournament being host by Army.

Navy 4, Army 1
Doubles -- Navy wins the doubles point (2-3)
1. Garner, Luke / Panyan, Sasha (NAVY) vs. Bodavula, Vishnu / Huarte, Jake (ARMY) 3-4, unfinished
2. Ayinala, Aniketh / Etterbeek, J.J. (NAVY) def. Sebastian, Marcus / Ton, Alan (ARMY) 6-1
3. Legaspi, Herrick / Nguyen, Nathan (NAVY) def. Haikal, Samuel / Rooney, Michael (ARMY) 6-2

Singles (5-3-6-1)
1. Panyan, Sasha (NAVY) def. Huarte, Jake (ARMY) 0-6, 6-4, 6-2
2. Legaspi, Herrick (NAVY) vs. Zhou, Daniel (ARMY) 5-7, 6-3, 0-1, unfinished
3. Haikal, Samuel (ARMY) def. Garner, Luke (NAVY) 6-1, 6-3
4. Nguyen, Steve (NAVY) vs. Bodavula, Vishnu (ARMY) 4-6, 6-3, 0-1, unfinished
5. Etterbeek, J.J. (NAVY) def. Ton, Alan (ARMY) 6-2, 6-2
6. Ayinala, Aniketh (NAVY) def. Sebastian, Marcus (ARMY) 6-4, 7-5