Friday’s cloudy skies and threatening rains suspended what looked to be an excellent tennis match between the Rattlers and the Knights of Central Florida.
Before the suspension, the Knights’ doubles teams defeated the Rattlers. Gabriel Strangberg and Augusto Sanabria of UCF won their sets over FAMU’s LaVaughn Munroe and Isaac Yarrell, 8-2.
The Rattler team of Kareem Bennett and Lenin Mongerie were also defeated 8-2 by Central Florida’s Antonio Sierra and Catalin Bradu. Noel Wadawu and Pfungwa Mahefu played a strong game as well, but finally succumbed to Simon Jaeger and Adam Kanaan 8-6.
Jaeger, a UCF freshman from Germany, admitted that the victory was not easy for the Knights.
“I’m glad that we won. We made all the important points. We could focus more on our service games to improve further,” he said. “Although we were out from the beginning, they came quickly upon us. They came a little closer, but fortunately for us, we made the break.”
LeTrone Mason, assistant coach for the Rattlers, emphasized the main goals for his squad.
“This is a young team right now, and we’re using the beginning of the season to get their feet wet,” Mason said. “We are preparing for the MEAC Conference. Last year we were second in that conference. This year, our focus is to be number one.”
In singles, UCF captured the first set from the Rattlers. Stranberg beat Munroe 6-4. Bennett and Mongerie were both defeated by Sierra and Sanabria respectively, 6-3. Yarrell, Mahefu and Wadawu fell to their opponents, 6-2.
Bobby Cashman, UCF’ head coach, was pleased with his team’s performance at this point.
“We’re playing pretty solid right now, but we’re not done yet,” Cashman said. “We have done fairly well in the past and right now our team chemistry is good and they are working hard.
“We finished second in the conference last year and we have the incentive to go for first place this year. If we win, it will be the first time for our university,” he said.
In the second set, the Rattlers returned with a vengeance.
Munroe, a sophomore, from the Bahamas, led 2-1. Wadawu, an SBI student from Zimbabwe, held his opponent at 3-1. Mongerie, a senior from the Virgin Islands, led his opponent 3-2.
Bennett, a senior from Houston, and Mahefu, a freshman from Zimbabwe were up to par with their competitors at 3-3 and 4-4 respectively.
Then the rain came. There was a break; the fans and players were disappointed at the turn of events. According to Yarrell, an Elementary education major from Cincinnati, Ohio, who was also leading his Knight opponent, he would have preferred to go on. “I hate unfinished stuff. If I lose, I lose, if I win, I win. Who knows what could have happened at this point”
The FAMU team is the only school to win the MEAC conference 5 times in a row and 8 out of 12 years. The remaining 4 times, the Rattlers placed second. They are ranked 52 in the country and the highest among HBCUs.