Arizona Wildcat Will Kneale comfortably won his semifinal match against Wichita State’s Eddie Stoica (6-4, 6-4) in Tucson on Saturday.
Sunday, he will play in the Wildcat Invitational’s championship match against the tournament’s No. 3 seed, New Mexico State junior Christofer Goncalves.
Set 1 (6-4):
Kneale, seeded fourth, came out of the gate swinging, breaking Stoica in the very first game with a forehand winner down the line.
When serving, Arizona’s Aussie took advantage of his left-handedness by slicing the ball way wide, forcing Stoica to hit difficult returns from his backhand side.
Stoica, on his second service game, finally managed to get on the board by hitting a volley winner to hold.
Kneale later picked up a second break of serve after Stoica netted a forehand, giving the Arizona senior a 4-1 lead.
But the Wildcat was unable to consolidate. Stoica stole the break right back with a lob winner, reducing the lefty’s lead to 4-2.
The Shocker went on to win two more consecutive games to tie the set up at 4-4.
In the game that followed, Stoica hit an impossible-looking ‘tweener, only for Kneale to win the point with a put-away volley two strokes later. Stoica then committed an unforced error by missing a forehand wide, giving Kneale a 5-4 lead and the chance to serve for the set.
Kneale went on to hold at love to take the set 6-4.
Set 2 (6-4):
Stoica held his serve in the first game after Kneale put a forehand into the net to go down 0-1.
Kneale then strung together a hold and break to take a 2-1 lead.
At 3-2, Kneale hit a scary-hard smash that bounced up and soared over Stoica’s head, clearing even the back fence.
Stoica responded by breaking and consolidating to take a 4-3 lead and put the set back on serve.
But Kneale fought back valiantly by firing an ace past Stoica to even it at 4-all.
In the set’s crucial ninth game, a crosscourt winner from Kneale and a botched slice backhand from Stoica put the Wildcat up 5-4.
Kneale then took the set, and the match, after Stoica’s attempt at a forehand pass went long.
Final Match Preview:
Kneale, having recorded his third consecutive straight-set victory on Saturday, hasn’t dropped a frame the entire tournament. Still, his path to the title is a tough one.
Coach Clancy Shields explains why Goncalves, who is seeded one position higher than Kneale, will be such a formidable opponent.
“The guy is a big hitter,” said Shields. “He’s going to push [Kneale] around a lot. So Will’s gotta be able to run all day and fight for the corners and play in the tough positions ... He’s going to have to play really good defense tomorrow and find his opportunities to attack when he can.”
On Saturday, Goncalves knocked out the tournament’s No. 2 seed in a tough three-setter.
The Championship match is set for 10 AM PT on Sunday.