Men’s tennis finished its season Friday after a 4-1 first round loss to Butler at the Big East Championship in Cayce, South Carolina.

“Being able to stick together and weather this season was something we accomplished together,” coach Tom Lilly said. “It was an up-and-down season but it was great that we got to play and win some good matches.”

The Jays 6-6 regular season record was enough to place the team as the fifth seed in the tournament, tying the program’s highest ever rank in the tournament since joining the conference.

The Bluejays got off to a hot start against fourth-seeded Butler, winning two of three doubles matches to secure a 1-0 lead. Seniors Stratton Brown and Joe Hoff opened with a 7-5 match win at the top flight while seniors Armando Gandini and Mac Mease won at the third spot 7-6, 7-3 to secure the point.

The Jays graduate the majority of their nine-man program at the end of the semester.

“Some of them have been there since the second or third year that we were in the Big East, and they’ve helped us step it up a level as far as where we were finishing in the conference,” Lilly said. “Hopefully the guys that are returning and those coming in next year will see that that level has been raised and so have our expectations.”

After dropping the doubles point, the Bulldogs turned things around on the Jays quickly in the singles matches. One of the Big East’s top players, Butler senior Tom Brennan, handled Brown with a 6-3, 6-0 score, evening the competition tally. Not long after, freshman Matt Lanahan fell in a narrow 6-4, 6-4 match in the No. 2 spot, putting Butler in the lead for good.

At No. 5 Gandini dropped his match as well, 6-2, 6-2. The fourth and winning point for the Bulldogs came as freshman Shin Inoue, who was just two days out of quarantine, made a late comeback in the first set, but lost it 6-4 and lost the following set 6-3.

Diaz and Hoff, in the three and six positions respectively, both had won the first sets and were poised to win their singles matches had Butler not clinched the day’s victory before the completion of the matches.

Overall, Lilly is happy the team was able to play as many matches as they did in the shortened season, considering the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a strange year to go through, but I’m impressed by how our guys were able to get through everything,” Lilly said. 

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