Urbana, ILLINOIS – Rafael Aita’s outstanding junior season at UNCW drew to a close late Wednesday when the Peruvian netter fell, 7-6 (11-9), 6-2, to Dennis Novikov of top-ranked UCLA in the singles portion of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships.
Aita, ranked 54th by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, became the first Seahawk player to earn an invitation to the NCAA’s national singles draw and acquitted himself well at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex at the University of Illinois
The Lima, Peru, native and Novikov were deadlocked at 6-all in the first set when the match was moved indoors due to inclement weather in the area. Novikov then fought off three set points to claim the tie-breaker, 11-9, before breaking early in the second set and advancing to the Round of 32.
“It was a very tough loss for Rafael,” said Mait DuBois, UNCW’s sixth-year head coach. “He showed that he can play with top-10 players. This experience will help him a lot in the long run.”
Novikov bounced back following a difficult day on Tuesday. The Bruins were upset, 4-3, by Virginia in the NCAA team championship match and the UCLA netter dropped a 7-6 (3), 6-3 decision to U.Va.’s Jarmere Jenkins in that match.
Aita, the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association Player-of-the-Year, finished the spring with a 16-6 singles record.
UNCW’s No. 1 doubles team of Kosta Blank and Chris Cooprider will play its opening-round match on Thursday after 1:30 p.m. The 30th-ranked tandem has fashioned a 13-5 record and battles No. 5 Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland of Georgia. Hernus and Pieters stand 15-9 in dual matches at No. 1 for the Bulldogs this spring.