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by John Maza

Game, set, match. The Wildcats continued their dominant surge during their final two matches of the season, building momentum as they prepare to compete in the Big East Championships.

With their wins over La Salle and St. Joe’s, they (13-8) secured the No. 6 seed in the tournament, avoiding the possibility of a first round play-in match.

Behind the strong play of their doubles, Villanova cruised past La Salle Sunday afternoon 6-1, as the Wildcats pushed their win streak to six.  Although the doubles stole the show, sweeping their matches, the singles continued their strong play, claiming five out of six, as Villanova set their sights on the Big East Championship.

However, Monday’s opponent, St. Joe’s, was determined to defeat the Wildcats, ending their win streak and killing all of their momentum heading into the championship weekend.

Villanova found themselves in a slugfest.  The Wildcats grinded out the doubles point in a tightly contested match. Junior co-captain Tom O’Brien and sophomore Kelly Donaldson, at first doubles, secured a victory, 9-8, in addition to gaining the doubles point from third doubles, junior co-captain Ryan Peyton and freshman Chris Seitz.

In first singles, O’Brien fought off a rough first set, 0-6, and came back strong, dominating his opponent, 6-4, 6-1, to grab yet another victory for the Wildcats.

Peyton, playing third singles, shut the door on his opponent early on, winning in a quick match, 6-3, 6-4, while fourth singles Max Levine survived a tough match to come out on top, 7-6, 6-4.

Villanova finished the season on a seven-match win streak, as they have their sights set on winning the Big East Championship.

“We have put together one of the best seasons the program has seen and look forward to continuing our strong play in the post season on Friday,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien, a “20-20” winner, has put together a dominating season. Paired with Donaldson at first doubles, the duo has been an anchor for the team, combing for a 23-11 record

After a rough start to the season, O’Brien went on to win 11 of his final 13 matches, ending the season on a six-match winning streak, with an overall record of 20-12 in singles play.

However, the season’s success has been a complete team effort, and has received great contributions across the board, according to O’Brien.

The Wildcats’ great success this season comes from a great balance between their singles and doubles results.  In each of three doubles spots this season, Villanova has posted at least a .500 record.

The team has received significant contributions from Seitz and Levine in both doubles and singles play this season.

The Wildcats enter the tournament with high confidence. They hope to make a statement in their opening round matchup against the No. 3 seed, USF.

The Big East Championship is a double-elimination format and the tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA championship.  The winner of Friday’s contest will advance to the semifinals to face either No. 2 seed Louisville or No. 7 seed DePaul, while the loser will compete in the consolation bracket.

Villanova will take on USF tomorrow at 12 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Big East Championship, in South Bend, Ind.

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