The Midwestern State Mustangs punched their ticket to the NCAA Division II Tennis Championships Sweet 16 with a hard-fought 5-3 win over Western New Mexico Monday at the MSU Tennis Center.
Midwestern State (19-5) advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006 with the win over Western (16-13), and advances for the fifth time in program history.
"I am so proud of these guys," said MSU coach Scott Linn. "It's been an amazing run."
Senior Luke Joyce, ranked 44th in Division II by the ITA, got the winning point for the MSU Mustangs at No. 1 singles by beating No. 42 Rodrigo Almeida 7-4 in the second set tiebreaker for a 6-1, 7-6 triumph.
Joyce's singles win capped the comeback by MSU as the Mustangs won their eighth straight match and the 13th out of the last 14.
The MSU Mustangs trailed the WNMU Mustangs 2-1 after doubles.
MSU's ninth-ranked duo of Joyce and Colby Meeks at No. 1 were shaken by Almeida and Juan Pablo Fuentes 8-4, while MSU's No. 3 doubles team of Tomas Grejtak and Zack Santagate lost late to Jorge Carretero and Matthieu Covizzi 8-6.
But the tandem of Kyle Davidson and Austin Crawford came through for MSU at No. 2 doubles, beating Alvaro Nunez and Francisco Damasio 8-3.
"I challenged them between doubles and singles," said Linn. "They didn't believe their season was over after doubles, they believed they had more in them and they showed it in singles. I'm very proud of them for that."
"Every court jumped out on their opponent and we finished very well."
While Meeks dropped his point at No. 3 singles to Covizzi 7-5, 6-1 to fall behind 3-1, the rest of the MSU Mustangs roared on strong.
Davidson quickly answered with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Fuentes at No. 2 to make it 3-2 WNMU.
Then MSU's Franko Siljeg, who was cramping in the 90-plus heat on Monday, battled to finish WNMU's Damasio 6-4, 6-2 at No. 5 singles to even the match.
MSU gained the lead at 4-3 just moments later when Crawford won at No. 6 against Roy Ulibarri 6-3, 7-5.
MSU's Kacper Boborykin led at No. 4 over Nunez 3-2 in the second set after winning the first 6-3, when Joyce sent the Mustangs to the Sweet 16.
"Luke did a great job and came out on fire in singles," Linn said. "Then he forced the tie break in the second set and won it."
The MSU men join the Mustangs women at the NCAA Division II Championships at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Center in Surprise, Ariz.
It's Midwestern State's fifth appearance in the Sweet 16, joining the 1999, 2001, 2005 and 2006 teams.
The Mustangs await Tuesday's Central Region 1 final between Ouachita Baptist and Southwest Baptist to see who they face in the round of 16 on May 8 at 11 a.m. Central Time.
Former Midwestern State offensive lineman Joe Unga signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens Monday according to representatives.
Unga garnered third-team All-America mention from Beyond Sports Network and was a first-team All-Lone Star Conference selection while leading the Mustangs to a second-straight conference championship while advancing to the NCAA Division II playoffs finishing with a 9-2 mark.
Midwestern State boasted the third best rushing attack in NCAA Division II last season rolling up 324 yards per game while ranking tops in the nation in sacks allowed permitting four in 11 games.
The 6-6, 320-pounder from Rochester, Calif. appeared in 11 games as the primary backup for consensus All-American Amini Silatolu in 2011 after transferring from Mount San Antonio College.
Unga would be fourth member of his family to compete at the NFL level joining cousins Naufahu Tahi (fullback, Minnesota), Reno Mahe (running back, Philadelphia Eagles) and Harvey Unga (linebacker, Chicago Bears).