INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Junior Antoine Noel's match-clinching win in singles helped propel the Cal Poly men's tennis team to a 4-2 win over UC Irvine in the Big West Tournament Semifinals to advance the program to its fourth straight championship match.
The two-seed Mustangs (14-9) started the match by taking the doubles points thanks to wins at the Nos. 1 and 2 spots. After the Anteaters (15-8) struck first with a 6-1 win at No. 3 doubles, seniors Josh Ortlip and Dominic Bechard even things up with a 6-3 victory at the No. 1 position. The No. 2 pairing of junior Antoine Noel and freshman Gary Vardanyan, who have been Cal Poly's strongest doubles tandem all season, clinched the point with a 6-4 win.
Once singles got going, Vardanyan won the first match of the day 6-0, 6-3 at the No. 4 spot to put the Mustangs up 2-0. Sophomore Alex Stater followed suit shortly thereafter with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles to give Cal Poly a 3-0 lead.
UC Irvine then cut the lead to 3-2 after wins at the No. 5 and No. 1 positions. However, Noel (pictured), who at the No. 2 spot took the first set before losing the second, closed the door on the Anteaters with a 6-4 win in the third set to seal the 4-2 victory for the Mustangs.
Cal Poly now moves on to its fifth Big West Tournament Championship match in the last six years. The Mustangs will face a familiar foe there in UC Santa Barbara Sunday at 9 a.m. The Gauchos have won the last three championship matches over Cal Poly. UCSB beat the Mustangs last weekend 4-0 in Santa Barbara in the final match of the regular season.
Photo courtesy of Josh Barber