Days after NC State men’s tennis shocked No. 2 South Carolina with a 4-3 upset victory, the Wolfpack had its sights set on another top-10 upset, and with a 3-0 lead, all signs pointed to exactly that.
No. 9 Columbia had other plans.
The Lions (4-1) turned a daunting 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 win over the last half of the six-hour match in Raleigh. Columbia’s reverse sweep was finished off by Hugo Hashimoto, who defeated sophomore Martin Borisiouk in an epic, three-set match to leave the Wolfpack (4-3) speechless.
“First reaction is disappointment,” said head coach Kyle Spencer. “Obviously in the sense of having a top-10 team like Columbia who are known to be great fighters, had them up 3-0, … and credit to them, the tennis levels was very high in all of [the matches].”
With all eyes set on court six, Borisiouk and Hashimoto went blow for blow in their thrilling three-setter. High off his team’s momentum from its three-straight match victories, Hashimoto relentlessly battled just as tough as Borisiouk, who came points away from delivering the upset victory for the Wolfpack.
Borisiouk dropped his first set 7-5 but battled back and took the second set by the same score despite being down 4-2. With junior Damien Salvestre defeated on court five by a score of 7-5, 6-3, the two teams crowded around court six for the intense, deciding third set.
Grueling rallies between Borisiouk and Hashimoto commenced. Long, back-and-forth points defined each game, but Hashimoto ultimately gained the edge, defeating the sophomore 6-4 to finish off the reverse sweep. Borisiouk gave everything he had, but the Lions ended up on the winning side of the bout.
“He left it all out there and was down and out probably five or six times and stuck in there,” said junior Braden Shick. “So it’s great to see from a guy that hasn’t been in that situation. So that was great progression for him, and I think he’ll take confidence from it even with the loss.”
Early on, NC State got out to a 1-0 lead with an equally entertaining doubles round. Shick and junior Fons Van Sambeek quickly won 6-2 on court three, but the Pack’s two other pairs fought to the death with their Lion opponents.
Seniors Robin Catry and Luca Staeheli lost 7-6 in a close tiebreaker on court one. However, the pair of No. 13 junior Joseph Wayand and Borisiouk delivered a 7-6 tiebreak win of their own to earn the doubles point.
At risk of losing late in the breaker, Wayand made a heroic behind-the-back hit to save the pair’s chances and send the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center into hysterics. With the opposing pair of No. 21 Max Westphal and Nicolas Kotzen stunned, Wayand and Borisiouk won the next few points to put NC State up 1-0.
Despite the Pack’s eventual loss, plays like Wayand’s defined the impressive level of fight NC State brought all night long.
“A lot of guys out there, playing it on the line for our team, regardless of the situation,” Spencer said. “So, quite excited for that, felt like we were very together in that match.”
NC State doubled and tripled down on its 1-0 lead once singles rolled around. Shick was first off the courts with a succinct 6-2, 6-3 win over his ranked opponent, while No. 120 Catry beat No. 24 Michael Zheng in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
Staring down a 3-0 deficit, the Lions started to turn the tide with back-to-back three-set wins over Van Sambeek and Staeheli. Van Sambeek faced an uphill battle for the entirety of his match, eventually losing 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. Staeheli also lost his first set in a close tiebreaker, took his second 6-4, but like Van Sambeek fell in the third and final set.
When Staeheli was put away 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, Salvestre had already lost his first set. Once he fell, Hashimoto and the Lions finished off the stunning turn of events with the win over Borisiouk on court six.
Despite the loss, NC State will still rocket back up into the rankings with its win over the Gamecocks and by taking the Lions to the brink. With the ability to go toe to toe with any team in the country, the Wolfpack will look to establish a level of consistency as it approaches conference play.
“It’s quite obvious that the level is there, as we knew it is,” Spencer said. “So, it just comes down to a few things here or there in the moments when you get deep into sets, and they were just a little bit better today deep in those sets. And so yeah, there’s a lot of positives. There’s a lot to learn. And yeah, really excited for where this team can go.”
Before starting ACC play, NC State is set for a doubleheader against Elon and NC Central on Sunday, Feb. 25 at noon and 4 p.m., respectively.