Northern Illinois (15-8) will host the four-team Mid-American Conference Men’s Tennis Championship Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27, welcoming Buffalo, regular season champion Ball State and defending tournament champion Western Michigan.
NIU, the championship’s fourth seed, will take on Ball State in the first round at the Huskie Tennis Courts, or at Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora, Ill. if inclement weather is in the area, at 10 a.m. Friday. Check NIUHuskies.com for any weather-related updates.
The second semifinal featuring Buffalo and Western Michigan will begin at 2 p.m., with the championship taking place at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27. All times are Central.
In match updates will be available via Twitter @NIUscores. Scores to all matches of the MAC Championship can be found on the conference’s championship page.
Due to Toledo’s loss to Western Michigan (5-2), the Huskies clinched a MAC Tournament berth April 19. However, the team did not put its weekend in Buffalo on cruise control as the Huskies defeated the Bulls, 4-3. Northern Illinois’ most crucial point came in doubles with the Huskies sweeping all three matches to earn the early 1-0 lead.
The bottom half of NIU’s singles lineup came up clutch in the match as wins at Nos. 5 and 6 by Max Phillips and Maksym Lagutin clinched the contest. Lagutin put the Huskies ahead 3-2 in the match with his 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory at No. 6 and Phillips clinched the Huskies victory at the fifth spot, 6-2, 0-6, 6-2.
Ball State, the Mid-American Conference’s regular season champion with a perfect 5-0 mark, enters the tournament with a 16-7 record, only one win more than the Huskies. Five of the Cardinals seven losses this season have come at the hands of nationally ranked opponents.
Patrick Elliott and Austin Smith have been forces at the bottom of the lineup as the pair have combined for a 33-10 record in singles play, with Smith leading the team with 17 triumphs. Dalton Albertin is a perfect 6-0 at No. 1 while Ray Leonard has played a brunt of the matches at the top spot with a 7-9 register.
Buffalo enters the championship with a 9-9 mark and an equal 3-2 clip in the Mid-American Conference for the third seed. The Bulls are 4-6 in their last 10 matches but enter the weekend on a three-match winless streak, including two MAC losses.
Singles play has been a strength of UB’s, with winning records at Nos. 1-4. Damien David, the 2012 Mid-American Conference Newcomer of the Year, leads the team with a 13-5 record at No. 2 while Vusa Hove owns a 10-8 mark at No. 1. David and Akhil Mehta are the top doubles duo at No. 1 with a 7-4 mark.
Western Michigan, the No. 2 seed, owns a 17-9 record and finished 3-2 in MAC play. The Broncos are the defending tournament champions, having defeated NIU and Ball State en route to a NCAA Tournament bid.
The biggest win of Western Michigan’s season occurred March 8 when WMU hosted No. 43 Michigan State and defeated the Spartans, 4-3, to start an 8-2 run in its last 10 matches. Nadin Indre, the defending Mid-American Conference Player of the Year is the Broncos top player with a 19-4 mark this season, including 15 wins at No. 1. Indre was a flawless 5-0 at No. 1 and combined for 16 wins in doubles this spring as well.
The Mid-American Conference Champion will be crowned Saturday afternoon with the winner earning the MAC’s automatic berth the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA will release its bracket at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 30. The selection show will be streamed online at NCAA.com.