by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College men's tennis squad avoided a letdown last week against two teams without a league win, downing a short-handed Belmont Abbey College team, 7-2, and defeating Lees-McRae College, 8-1, both on the road.
With the victories, Barton improved to 11-5 overall and 3-4 in conference play. The Bulldogs remain in sixth place with one league match left to play.
Belmont Abbey (1-11, 0-4) surrendered No. 3 doubles and No. 6 singles by default, and Barton's top two doubles teams – the duo of Jake McCartney and Rafael Ruiz at No. 1 and Max Leppert and Daniel Radu at No. 2 – both claimed 8-5 wins, leaving the Bulldogs needing just one match point in five singles matches to seal the win.
McCartney suffered a rare loss at No. 1 singles – just his second of the season in 14 matches – to Belmont Abbey's Conner McMann, and Yaxi Pintado fell in a three-set marathon, 6-2, 1-6, 11-9.
However, Barton won at positions two through four to gain the victory. Ruiz claimed No. 2 singles, 6-2, 6-3; Nick Genest earned a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 3; and Radu took a 6-2, 6-1 decision at No. 4.
Against Lees-McRae (3-10, 0-6), Barton led 2-1 after doubles. McCartney and Ruiz won easily at No. 1, 8-1, as did Genest and Pintado at No. 3, 8-0. However, the No. 2 duo for the Bobcats, Carlos Pinel and Hang Lak Choi, edged Leppert and Jorge Pradilla, 9-8.
The Bobcats forced two singles matches to a third set - one at No. 3 where Leppert won 6-2, 5-7, 10-6, and the other at No. 4, where Genest was victorious, 6-3, 2-6, 10-7, but could not collect a singles win.
Barton has won three of its last four matches, the only loss coming to nationally-ranked No. 28 University of Mount Olive. The Bulldogs will complete their string of four straight road matches this week with visits to Catawba College on Tuesday and King University on Friday.