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 April 29, 2013

PALOS HILLS, Ill. --- The goal of any athletic program, no matter what the sport, is to be playing at its best when the stakes are at the highest.

For the Prairie State College men's tennis team, the stakes were no higher than this weekend's NJCAA Region IV Tournament.

When the dust had settled on the two-day event, it was the Pioneers standing tall and staring history right in the eye.

PSC's 17 points in the tournament were enough to outlast runner-up Elgin (15 points) and present Prairie State with its first region title in a men's sport Saturday at Moraine Valley.

"Our players really represented the spirit of Prairie State College at the regional tournament," PSC head coach Patrick Reichard said. "They worked hard all year but saved their best efforts for the finals. Going into the last day, we were down a point. We had five final matches, and we needed to win them all, especially the ones against Elgin, who was playing exceptionally well.

"All of the matches were nail biting, but we won them all and clinched the region championship."

In all, PSC posted three region titlists in singles play and two more on the doubles side.

Freshman Kodie Hayes (Homewood-Flossmoor H.S.) knocked off Syed Basit of Elgin in the title match at No. 4 while fellow freshman Victor Villegas defeated Moraine Valley's Kevin Davenport in the No.5 showdown.

Freshman Jeremy Horvath (Crete-Monee H.S.) rallied at sixth singles to upend Nate Adcock of Illinois Valley, 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.

In doubles action, Villegas and sophomore Tyler Carter (Thornwood H.S.) locked down the championship at No.2, while the tandem of Hayes and Horvath were victorious at No. 3.

"The three players this weekend who offered heroic efforts were Victor Villegas, Jeremy Horvath and Kodie Hayes," Reichard said. "They all won both singles and doubles titles as we were able to win five region championships this weekend. To put that into perspective, in the three previous years, we've won a total of three titles, one every year."

Carter's win in doubles play made him PSC's first two-time region champion.

Reichard was also quick to credit sophomores Nick Blink (Illiana Christian H.S.) and Schumann for providing strong leadership throughout the campaign.

"This season would not have been a successful one without the leadership of sophomores like Jack and Nick," Reichard said. "Their contributions were most visible in practices and pushing our freshmen to their full potential."

Despite the fact that he was not crowned a region champ, Reichard also recognized the extreme on-court contributions of freshman Kevaughn Ferguson (Westminster College, Bahamas).

Ferguson, a native of the Bahamas,  held down the Pioneers' top singles spot throughout the season, but did not advance to the finals.

"Kevaughn Ferguson made the greatest contributions to our squad," Reichard said. "He came to live here from the Bahamas, away from all his family and friends and had an outstanding year for us.

"Kevaughn made some serious improvements in his game, but was ultimately outplayed in a grueling match against the eventual winner of the tournament. We certainly hope he comes back next year as he's capable of doing some great things."

PSC now moves onto the NJCAA Championship in Plano, Texas May 12-17.

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