SAN ANTONIO — Senior Max Stratmann clinched the winning point to propel UTSA past UT Arlington, 4-3, in the opening Southland Conference Tournament semifinal on Saturday at the UTSA Tennis Center.
Up 5-4 in the third set, Stratmann was engaged in a rally with Erik Hjertonsson in the No. 5 singles match. Hjertonsson sent a ball long past the end line to send the Roadrunners (11-9) to its ninth appearance in the tournament's championship in the last 11 seasons, where they will defend their league title against top-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (14-9), the nation's 75th-ranked squad, at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
"Whenever I saw the ball bounce past the end line, I realized that it was over," Stratmann said. "It was a tough match. I came out with confidence in the third set and got in the groove and was hitting the ball well."
Stratmann won the opening set, 6-2, but dropped the middle panel, 3-6. The decisive point came down to court No. 5, where both teams congregated to watch the final games.
"I knew I had to win it," Strattman said. "All of the guys were behind me, so I didn't feel the pressure."
"Everyone was supporting him," senior Daniel Moreiras said. "When it was match point, we knew he was going to take it."
UTSA opened the match by claiming the doubles point after the top two flights gained victories.
Junior Daniel Moser gave UTSA a 2-0 lead after taking a straight-sets win (7-6 [7-5], 7-5) against Nicolas Moreno at No. 6 singles.
However, the Mavericks (12-10) bounced back to win at the Nos. 3 and 4 spots to tie the match at two.
Sophomore Martin Ayala then won his top-flight match in three sets over Mindaugus Celedinas to give the Roadrunners a one-point cushion. However, UT Arlington evened it up again when Yauheni Yakauleu topped sophomore Tyler Brown (6-1, 4-6, 6-3) at the No. 2 position.
"We knew we were in for a tough match when the seedings came out," said head coach Jeff Kader. "After we won the doubles point and took four of the first six sets in singles play, I felt comfortable. However, I knew we were still in for a battle. UT Arlington kept coming back and showed a lot of heart."
The two clubs came down to a deciding match for the second straight meeting, as UTSA defeated UT Arlington, 4-3, on March 6.
"Our team showed a lot of composure today," Kader said. "I was very happy for Max. When it came down to him, he told me he wanted to be in that situation."
UTSA 4, UT Arlington 3
1. Ayala/Moreiras (UTSA) def. Celedinas/Subirats (UTA) 8-5
2. Brown/Junger (UTSA) def. Leppin/Hamon (UTA) 8-2
3. Stratmann/Zanotelli (UTSA) vs. Yakauleu/Moreno (UTA) 6-7, unfinished
1. Martin Ayala (UTSA) def. Mindaugas Celedinas (UTA) 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
2. Yauheni Yakauleu (UTA) def. Tyler Brown (UTSA) 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
3. Lucas Leppin (UTA) def. Yannick Junger (UTSA) 2-6, 6-3, 6-3
4. David Subirats (UTA) def. Daniel Moreiras (UTSA) 7-6 (7-5), 6-3
5. Max Stratmann (UTSA) def. Erik Hjertonsson (UTA) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
6. Daniel Moser (UTSA) def. Nicolas Moreno (UTA) 7-6 (7-5), 7-5