Cal Poly Headed Back to NCAA Tournament After Winning Big West Title
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — With a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line, Naveen Beasley and Corey Pang both found themselves a game away from abruptly ending the last match at the Big West Conference Men's Tennis Championship on Sunday afternoon.
Beasley got there first, clinching Cal Poly's 4-1 win over Hawai'i on courts 3-8 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden to earn the Mustangs' second trophy at the venue in a three-year span.
In doing so, the junior completed a 7-5, 6-3 win over Pavel Liska on the No. 6 court. Pang, who was battling Danilo Casanova at No. 4, led his third set 5-2 at the time (after going 6-4, 1-6).
"It's hard to put it into words," Cal Poly head coach Nick Carless said.
After starting the regular season 0-7 in dual play, Carless said he and the team used the recent postseason run by the Cal Poly men's basketball squad as inspiration.
"We kind of viewed the season they had as a model of peaking at the right time of the year," he said. "We just kept talking about wanting to play our best tennis at the end — that it wasn't necessarily how you start, but how you finish. And the guys kept working, and we ended up playing our best tennis down here in the desert."
Sunday's victory also avenged a 6-1 loss to the Rainbow Warriors in Honolulu on March 24 that snapped a five-match winning streak.
This time, the shortened meeting between the top two seeds was different from the onset.
Seniors Marco Comuzzo and Matt Thomson rebounded from an early 2-1 hole against Nils Schuhmann and David Schuster to eventually win 8-4 at No. 1 doubles.
Then senior Jurgen De Jager and freshman Ben Donovan took the point at No. 3, rallying from a 6-5 deficit by claiming the next three games versus Chas Okamoto and Marcel Chan.
"We had a much better start in doubles today," Carless said.
After UH evened it at 1-all in singles, Cal Poly got back in front on the third court, where De Jager — now a team-best 15-3 this spring — sidelined Okamoto 7-5, 6-0. (In the first of those sets, he trailed 1-2, 3-4 and 4-5 before closing emphatically.)
Afterward, Donovan (now 17-10 overall) won 6-1, 7-5 opposite Jonathan Brooklyn at No. 1. In fighting back from being down 4-5 in the latter, he set up Beasley's dramatic championship-point scenario about three hours and 25 minutes after the morning's first serve.
"Naveen has done an amazing job of closing out matches," Carless added.
It was the second time in a row that Beasley's racquet was the one to finalize the outcome, as teammates also rushed him to celebrate Friday's 4-0 semifinal versus UC Santa Barbara.
Cal Poly (11-12 overall) will wait until 2 p.m. Tuesday to learn its first-round opponent during the NCAA.com Selection Show.
The NCAA Tournament's opening rounds will be held May 9-11 at sites yet to be announced.
On a team basis, this is the Mustangs' third NCAA Tournament appearance over the past four seasons.