Plano, TX—Without the services—as well as returns, overheads, ground strokes, volleys, and drop shots—of their No. 1 player, the MMI Tigers produced enough points (8) to finish as the 21st-ranked team in the nation during the 2018 NJCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championship. The five-day event, stretching from Monday, May 14 through Friday, May 18, was held at Collin College's 12-court tennis facility.
In opening-round play, Isaiah Polk downed Mesa's Scott Mantelman in two grueling sets, 7-5-6-4, at No. 3 singles. At No. 6 singles, Vance Llewellyn played some solid tennis in his match against Copiah-Lincoln's Sebastian Harrell, prevailing 6-2, 6-2. Chris Lee and Kai Tougas produced MMI's final first-round points by dispatching Lake County's No. 1 doubles pair of Alec Munro and Brandon Reichel, 6-0, 7-5.
Kai Tougas lost a hard-fought 6-2, 7-5 match to Iowa Central's Antony Lekoko at No. 4 singles, and Connor Higginbotham lost a close three-setter to Mississippi Gulf Coast's Reid Cudd, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 5 singles.
In consolation matches, Higginbotham picked up a point by defeating Prairie State's Zack Perez, 6-1, 6-1, and Higginbotham then paired up with Polk at No. 2 doubles to win a pair of matches against Pima State's Francisco Sotelo and Jonathon Wu, 6-3, 7-6 (4) and Lake County's Alex Tobias and Octavio Valazquez, 6-0, 6-4.
"All in all, the boys stepped up in a difficult situation and played competitively throughout the tournament," said MMI coach Charles Wright. "We had to move Chris and Kai up to No. 1 doubles and create two new doubles teams on the fly—Isaiah and Connor at No. 2 doubles and Vance and Justin at No. 3 doubles. In singles, the rule book allowed us to place Nathan Johnsen at the No. 1 singles position and keep the rest of the singles lineup intact. With all the spur-of-the-moment changes we had to make, I thought the boys played very well indeed."