ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- It had been four long years of frustration for GC’s lone senior Ryan Haas. He had never been able to forget how his freshman season had ended. It was in that year when the senior dominated Panthers squad was poised to make a serious run at the SLIAC conference championship. Haas was the only underclassmen on that team. The Panthers season ended as Haas was moments from clinching his match to tie the match at 4-4. That defeat came at the hands of Webster.
The following two seasons brought about more frustration, as two very solid Panthers squads could not get past tough Webster teams. Last year’s season once again ended against Webster at the conference tournament, with Haas on court.
The Panthers once again looked to knock off the Gorlocks as they traveled to Webster Groves for a regular season battle. Webster was riding a five match winning streak. This match was very important for the Panthers as they looked to position themselves for the SLIAC tournament beginning next week.
The Panthers knew that they had to come out strong in doubles if they were going to win this conference match. The No. 1 doubles team of Alex Dowley and Jon Urshan put together their best performance of the year by gaining an 8-1 victory. The No. 3 doubles team of Code Power and Demetrius Bush put the Panthers up 2-0 with an 8-0 win. The Panthers fell just short of the sweep in doubles, as the No. 2 team of Ryan Haas and Justin McDonald fell short 8-6.
Webster continued to gain momentum as they earned easy victories at No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 singles. The Panthers battled back with solid wins by Code Power and Demetrius Bush at No. 5 and No. 6 singles.
That set the stage for one of the most clutch comebacks in GC tennis history. With the match tied 4-4, one match remained on court. Senior Ryan Haas found himself in position to end the frustration that he had felt at the hands of Webster. It would not be an easy task, as he found himself down 6-4, 3-0 at No. 4 singles.
As the day turned to night, Haas made the decision that he was not going to let this one get away for his Panther teammates. With both teams, coaches, and several spectators watching, he began his comeback. Using strong service games and very consistent returns, he ran off six straight games to take the second set by a score of 6-3. It would now come down to one set.
After fighting off some early third set jitters and a 2-1 deficit, Haas would not be denied. He continued his strong return game, and used deep approach shots to take control of the set. After two and a half hours of physical tennis, match point had finally arrived. Haas was able to hit another great return to draw an error from his opponent to gain the victory for the Panthers.
Haas stated, “We’ve been through a lot as a team over the last several months. We weren’t sure if we were even going to have an opportunity to be in this position, to win a conference match against a team like Webster. I knew that I couldn’t let my team down. We had come too far and worked too hard. Once I was able to get my emotions in check, I just did what had to be done.”
The Panthers season record now stands at 10-7 (2-1 SLIAC). The Panthers welcome Principia for their final home match and regular season match of the season on Tuesday, April 15.