The Capital University men's tennis team will make its second consecutive appearance in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals Friday at 4 p.m. against Baldwin Wallace at Lindner Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.
The third-seeded Crusaders (11-6 overall), who have won eight straight dual matches, downed No. 6 Mount Union 5-3 Tuesday at The Players Club in Hilliard in a match moved to an indoor facility due to inclement weather.
Sophomore Luke Buchanan (Westerville, Ohio) and freshman Dale Booher (Hartville, Ohio) accounted for three of Capital's five points. The two combined for an 8-2 triumph at No. 1 doubles before Buchanan won in straight sets at the top singles position and Booher was victorious at the No. 2 slot in three sets.
Sophomore Jared Judson (Dublin, Ohio) and freshman Beau Streety (Tucson, Ariz.) teamed for an 8-4 victory at No. 3 doubles. Judson clinched the match for the Crusaders with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph at No. 6 singles.
Capital has reached the semifinals just twice since the tournament changed to a dual match format – 2013 and 2014.
Junior Kenny Duncan (Poland, Ohio) is one of three juniors on this year's team, and was around in 2012 when the Crusaders were shut out in the OAC Tournament quarterfinals.
"Two years ago, we were seventh in the conference," said Duncan, who plays No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles. "Our goal was to finish in the top four in the conference. Now, we have much higher expectations and just being a 'top four team' would be disappointing.
"This is a deep team, and I think we have our best chance to win the OAC for the first time since 2001."
Five of Capital's six regular starters in singles finished with four or more wins in the OAC the season. Sophomore Jared Judson (Dublin, Ohio) and freshman Beau Streety (Tucson, Ariz.) were a perfect 7-0 in league matches.
Streety is currently 17-3 and was points away from extending his 13-match winning streak to 14 on Tuesday against Mount Union, but his match was left unfinished after the Crusaders clinched the fifth and deciding point.
Freshman Dale Booher (Hartville, Ohio), another newcomer to the program, has provided consistent play at No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles. He and sophomore Luke Buchanan (Westerville, Ohio) lead the team with 12 doubles wins, and Booher is tied for second in singles wins with 14.
"They don't lose," Duncan said of the freshman duo. "They're mentally strong players. Beau is usually off the court pretty quick, and Dale plays a lot of three-set matches playing at the second spot. It was a really smooth transition to the college game for both of them."
Baldwin Wallace (18-3), a perennial contender in the OAC for the last decade, turned back Heidelberg 5-0 in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
The Yellow Jackets defeated Capital 7-2 back on March 22 in Columbus. Baldwin Wallace took all three doubles matches and won four of six in singles.
The Crusaders were not playing at full strength as Duncan made his return from an injury, competing only in doubles as part of his transition back to the singles lineup.
Since Duncan returned to playing singles, Capital has lost just once, falling 5-4 against regular season champion and tournament No. 1 seed Otterbein.
During its eight-match winning streak, the Crusaders defeated two opponents – John Carroll and Ohio Northern – that beat the Yellow Jackets during the regular season.
The winner of Friday's Capital-Baldwin Wallace match moves on to face the winner of the other semifinal. No. 8 seed Marietta visits No. 1 Otterbein and No. 5 Ohio Northern plays at No. 4 John Carroll in quarterfinal matches to determine the other two semifinal spots.
The Crusaders seek their second OAC Tournament championship in program history.
"I don't need to tell my (younger) teammates how important this is," Duncan said. "They care about winning and this program just as much as I do. We have good camaraderie and will support and push each other all the way through."