ST. PETER, Minn. – As the cliché goes, “Close only counts in horsehoes and hand grenades.” So it was for Carleton College senior Peter Dunn (Winnetka, Ill./North Shore Country Day), who nearly pulled off a pair of upsets against highly-ranked competition on Saturday.
Despite Dunn’s heroic effort, the Knights lost 9-0 to national No. 20 Gustavus Adolphus College in a battle of the two remaining unbeaten men’s tennis squads in the MIAC. The loss snapped Carleton’s eight-match win streak.
"Gustavus has assembled another powerful squad this year,” said Carleton head coach Stephan Zweifel. “Today's match was reminiscent of the battle between the web search engines AltaVista and Google. And if anybody does not remember how that ended, they can Google the answer."
Dunn and Paul Cooper (Jr./Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale Central) actually led their first doubles match against the region’s top-ranked pairing of Amrik Donkena and Mya Smith-Dennis by a 7-3 margin, but the Gustie duo came all the way back to prevail, 9-8.
Jon Aranda (Sr./Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola) and Avery Rux (Fy./Austin, Texas/Home School) put up a fight at second doubles before absorbing an 8-6 setback. Andrew Hwang (Fy./Brookfield, Wis./University School) and Austin Jiang (Jr./Green Bay, Wis./Bay Port) came up short, 8-5, at third doubles.
The Knights continued the fight as the match headed to singles, and once again it was Dunn leading the charge from the top spot in the lineup.
He again opposed Donkena, the No. 2 singles player in the central region, and gave the favorite all he could handle. Dunn quickly fell into a 5-0 hole, but would not surrender. He won the next game, and the next, and the next. Dunn then overcame a trio of set points and brought the score to 5-4. Eventually he forced the opening set into a tiebreaker, losing 7-6. The Knight co-captain built on the momentum of his first-set comeback and with a big return squared the match after posting a 6-4 decision in the second set. In the super tiebreaker, Donkena ran off six straight early points and prevailed 10-4.
"I admire Peter for the way he fought for every point,” Zweifel said. “It was like watching a Honey Badger take on a pride of lions."
Rux dropped the second singles match to No. 10 Smith-Dennis, 6-2 and 6-4. Hwang, Jiang, Cooper and McCoy Becker (So./Ojai, Calif./Thacher School) each claimed at least four games before falling in straight sets.
The Knights will wrap up the regular season next week with a home match against University of St. Thomas on Friday, April 27 followed by a Sunday afternoon contest at Macalester College.