JMU edges UR in great college atmosphere at Salisbury Country Club

By John Packett RTA Contributing Writer

JMU edges UR in great college atmosphere at Salisbury Country Club

It was exactly the kind of competition you would expect to see from two evenly matched college teams.

With the score tied 3-3 between the University of Richmond and James Madison University, the outcome came down to the final match on the court (No. 5 singles) at Salisbury Country Club’s indoor facility on Feb. 16.

And that contest went to the wire, with Pierre Kohler pulling out a 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) squeaker over James Aronson to give the Dukes a 4-3 victory over the Spiders before what remained of a boisterous crowd of around 200 mostly JMU alums.


The Dukes had taken a 3-0 lead by winning the doubles point and getting singles victories from Damon Roberts (No. 3 singles) and Paul Mendoza, the former Cosby High School star who edged Caleb Troy 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-0) at No. 1 singles.

But the Spiders, under first-year coach Houston Barrick, battled back with singles wins from John Karlawish (No. 2), Klein Evans (No. 6) and former St. Christopher’s standout Matt Fernandez, who downed Theophile Lanthiez 6-1, 6-4 at No. 4.

That left Kohler and Aronson as the decisive match. Kohler had saved two set points in the opening frame before taking it in a tiebreaker. In the final set, Aronson broke Kohler to assume a 6-5 lead and served for the match but Kohler refused to allow it.

Before the final tiebreaker, Secord gave his junior from France some advice.

“I’ve been trying to get him to play higher margins,” said Secord. “Go for a little more. He’s always going to be offensive but give himself a little bit of a chance coming into the net, putting pressure on the other guy.

“He started doing that the last few games of the [third] set and the tiebreaker as well. Really proud of him for rising to the occasion.”

Aronson led 3-1 and 4-2 in the extra session but the 6-5 UR senior couldn’t maintain his advantage.

After taking a 6-5 lead with a backhand down the line, Kohler came in behind a crisp volley and forced Aronson to send a forehand over the baseline, setting off a wild celebration on the court between the Dukes.

The victory gave JMU a 5-1 record, and the Dukes carried the momentum into the following day, routing Morgan State 7-0. The Spiders fell to 4-5 with the loss and dropped a 7-0 decision to Old Dominion on Feb. 18 to go to 4-6.

“I think it was a really good college match,” said Barrick, a former member of the University of Virginia’s powerhouse teams. “It could have gone [either way]. There were so many swings [in momentum]. It’s unfortunate we came out on the wrong side.

“It’s obviously disappointing. Losing stinks.”

Barrick kept trying to pump up Aronson with words of encouragement.

“He laid it all out there,” said Barrick. “Didn’t play a great breaker at certain times but I’m proud of him.”

As it turned out, Mendoza’s win at No. 1 singles was a critical one for the Dukes, and he dominated the tiebreaker to seize it.

“Once you get to that third-set breaker, you just think this is the last leg [of the match] and you just put it all out there,” said Mendoza. “You just go for everything … with margin of course … and I was lucky I won 7-0.”

Mendoza moved into the No. 1 spot this season after finishing last year at No. 2. That means he’s always going to play a tough opponent.

“In college there’s no easy match,” said Mendoza, who won the 6A state singles and doubles championships as a senior at Cosby. “No matter where you play in the lineup, the guy’s always going to be a fighter because you’re representing your school and you want to put it all out there.”

Tate Steinour, the son of Salisbury director of tennis, Scott Steinour, helped JMU secure the doubles point with a victory at No. 3. But the sophomore who now makes his home in Hilton Head, S.C., lost his singles match at No. 6 to Evans 6-3, 6-3.

This was the third year that a collegiate match has been held at Salisbury, and it started with a request from the JMU women’s coach.

“The Old Dominion-JMU women had to get a match in and they wanted it at a neutral site,” said Steinour. “They asked for availability, and I said, ‘Hey, we’ll make it available. We’ll get it going.’ They came in and played the match and it was very successful.

“The men’s coach, which my son is going there, called and said, “Hey, can we get a men’s match there?’ because they didn’t have an indoor [facility] at JMU at the time. So they came last year [vs. George Mason] and we had over 100 people cheering them on.”

Steinour said the plan is to keep having JMU come to Salisbury for a match and possibly play it outdoors next time.

“We have a large alumni group from JMU at the club,” said Steinour. “We get our juniors to come out, our JMU alumni, even members to come out. It’s unique having my son, Tate, on the team but also having Paul, a Richmonder, play for the team.”

Last year, the Dukes also had Brett Moorhead, another Richmonder, on the squad. He’s now an assistant pro at the club.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

“[Last year,] there was a lot of local talent playing in a Division I match, which was pretty cool.”

Steinour said the tentative plan was to have the match outdoors later in the spring season in 2019.

“Next year, we’re looking at doing it in late March or early April, and going outside on the clay,” said Steinour. “Doing a Richmond and JMU match under the lights and the skybox. That would expand from 200 people having tight viewing to seating 200 or more people easily.

“Then if we had to, we could move the match indoors. But if it was nice enough, we’d play it outdoors.”

Another drawing card for the match was free pizza, courtesy of Maglio’s Pizza, and ticketed beer was available.

A great atmosphere for college tennis was produced for the third straight year at Salisbury, with the promise of an even better one next year. Steinour and the folks at Salisbury should be saluted for hosting such a wonderful event.  


Thank you to local junior player, Drew Campbell, for providing the pictures for the article.