Boise State tennis player learning to win big matches (Updated: Broncos lose at NCAAs)

Six-foot-7 Swede Nathan Sereke's most crucial victory put Boise State into this year's NCAA team tournament.

May 10, 2013 

The Boise State men's tennis team celebrates with Nathan Sereke, second from left, after his victory over New Mexico's Conor Berg to clinch the Broncos' second straight Mountain West championship and NCAA Tournament berth.

STEPHEN NOWLAND — NCAA photos

FRIDAY UPDATE:

Broncos fall 4-3 in first round of NCAAs

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Boise State men’s tennis season ended Friday with a loss to No. 23 Clemson at the NCAA Championships.

The outcome came down to a third set in the finals singles match, a common theme for Boise State this season. With the match tied 3-3 Clemson’s Dominique Maden captured the third set, 6-1 over Filipp Pogostkin to give the Tigers their fourth point.

The match began with Clemson taking the doubles point, then Garrett Patton put the Broncos on the winning track with a victory at No. 6 singles to tie the match at one point apiece. After Hunter Harrington put Clemson up 2-1 by holding off Nathan Sereke 6-4, 7-5, Thomas Tenreiro leveled the score with a win at No. 5. Tenreiro defeated Zachary Rigsby 7-5, 6-2 to end his freshman campaign on a 19-match win streak and a 24-3 overall record.

The Broncos and Tigers traded points again as Scott Sears’ late charge was not enough in a 6-4, 6-4 defeat, but Andy Bettles would bring the match to 3-3 with an upset win (6-4, 6-1) against No. 23 Yannick Maden.

Boise State finished the season with a 20-10 record. It marks the second consecutive year the Broncos have been ousted in the first round of NCAA Tournament by a 4-3 final, losing to Florida State in 2012

ORIGINAL STORY: Boise State tennis player learning to win big matches

BY CHADD CRIPE

ccripe@idahostatesman.com

BOISE - When Boise State men's tennis coach Greg Patton is the one trying to restrain a celebration, you know something special has happened.

Patton grabbed hold of junior Nathan Sereke to keep him upright as he was mobbed by teammates two weeks ago. Sereke won a third-set tiebreaker against New Mexico as the last man on the court to clinch the Mountain West championship and an NCAA Tournament berth for the Broncos.

"I wish my guys were as quick on the court as they were getting on the court to hug him," Patton said.

Sereke's heroics earned the Broncos a date with No. 23 Clemson on Friday in Knoxville, Tenn. The winner likely will face No. 7 Tennessee on Saturday.

A year earlier, Sereke lost the deciding match in three sets in the Broncos' first-round NCAA match against Florida State. It would be no surprise if Boise State's fate came down to Sereke again.

He has been the last Bronco on the court in four high-profile matches during his career - as a freshman against a highly ranked Fresno State team (loss), as a sophomore at the NCAA Tournament (loss), earlier this year against Texas Tech (win) and in that Mountain West final (win).

"I usually take my time between points, so my matches tend to last a bit longer than the others," said Sereke, a 6-foot-7 Swede. "That's probably why."

Sereke is the Broncos' No. 2 singles player. He has won 13 of his past 14 matches - providing a spark for a team that got off to a horrific start.

The Broncos, once 3-7, are 20-9 and ranked No. 42.

Patton credits Sereke and No. 1 Andy Bettles, who approached him and asked that he push the team harder.

"They got it," Patton said. "Discipline isn't to you, it's for you. It's a gift you can give, but they were asking for the gift. … When they started being successful at 1 and 2, the whole team started to follow."

Said Sereke: "I started realizing I don't really have that much time left. I really wanted him to be a bit harder on me so I can fulfill my potential here."

And the Broncos, as much as Sereke, are reaping the benefits.

Their season, and his career, turned at the Blue Gray Championship in mid-March. The Broncos beat three straight ranked opponents, capped by Sereke's win in the decisive match against Texas Tech.

"That whole tournament really turned it around, and I started feeling very confident on the court," he said. "That was really big."

The Broncos' ensuing surge still likely wasn't going to get them into the NCAA Tournament without a Mountain West title. That became clear when New Mexico was a surprise finalist, threatening to bump Boise State from the bubble.

For about 50 minutes, the duel was tied 3-3 with just Sereke's match in play.

Sereke won the first set 6-2, and New Mexico's Conor Berg answered by taking the second 6-2. All five other singles matches ended in two sets.

"It's tough to describe," Sereke said. "You get very nervous. If you're tired and stuff like that, it doesn't matter. You just look at the guys after every point and they lift you up. Even if you lose, it's still a great feeling to be out there."

Berg broke for a 4-2 lead in the third, but Sereke broke right back. He had three break points at 5-all but couldn't capitalize.

Throughout the set, Sereke's thoughts drifted to his loss in the NCAA match.

"For sure, that's definitely one of your first thoughts," he said. "But then stuff like we won it last year, we won the Mountain West, I won all my matches, I can do it again, the Blue Gray - those thoughts enter your head."

He finally prevailed 7-4 in the tiebreaker - throwing his racket to punctuate the victory.

"Our future really is determined by how we react to our past," Patton said. "… He was empowered and he seemed invincible, even though his opponent was playing absolutely phenomenal tennis. The match was so good and they were so courageous, both of them, that it's almost a shame that there was a loser. But I had that feeling just watching him on the sideline that this is ours, and it's not going to slip out of his fingers again."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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