Coach Carl Goodman had commented earlier in the day that the Rattlers had been in so many tight matches this season that he couldn't stomach another one. With the score tied at three all, the outcome rested on the shoulders of junior Takura Happy. No stranger to playing good for the Rattlers, Happy is a two-time All-MEAC first teamer and former MEAC rookie of the year. Battling a leg injury that hampered his movement, Happy defeated Juan Escobar 7-5 to win the match for the Rattlers.
"They did what they are supposed to have done. I'm proud of them as always. We've had about seven matches this far in the season that have been won 4-3, so we've got the experience. It has come down to a matter of somebody stepping up and Takura has been a big time player for the last three years and he really stepped up this time again," Goodman said.
With a moderate crowd onlooking, including FAMU athletic director Derek Horne, cheering for Happy and the USM team cheering for Escobar, it was an electric scene at the tennis court. The two were so evenly matched that their game went on for 30 minutes after all the other matches had concluded.
Happy was glad to cap of the win for his team. "I had to just keep believing in myself and stay aggressive and trust in my own game. I've won a couple of tough matches this year and I just had to believe I could do it again," he said.
The Rattlers began the day by losing the doubles point. The team of Levan Clark and Salif Kante disposed of Matt Frost and Paulo Alvarado 8-4. Happy and Chidi Gabriel were defeated by Paulo Alvarado and Juan Escobar 8-3and Fabrice Myrtil and Temuera Asafu-Adjaye were defeated by Andrew Goodwin and Michael Elortegui by the same score.
In singles, Kante defeated Matt Frost 6-3, 6-0 in the No.1 spot. Clark defeated Alvarado 6-0,6-1 in the No.2 slot. Gabriel defeated Belloso 7-6(2), 6-4 in the No.4 slot. Myrtil went down to Zeljkovic 6-1,6-2 in the No.5 slot. In the No.6 slot, Goodwin defeated Asafu-Adjaye 6-4,6-1. These matches all resulted in a 3-3 tie, with the Happy match set to determine the outcome.
Clark described his feeling going into the match. "Individually, I started out the season 0-3, and since then I've been 4-1, with one tie against the University of South Alabama. I just felt like we needed to work on our doubles more, because when we've won the doubles point, we've won the match most of the time. We're continuing to work hard on our doubles, because that has been our main issue. When we get that put together, everything else will fall in place," he said.
Kante echoed that sentiment. "I think I played well today. I tried to get my match over early to give confidence to my teammates that we could come back. We're trying to find the best lineup possible for doubles and we'll keep working to get the best possible lineup," Kante said.
On the injury, Happy said he tried his best to ignore it and keep playing. With Clark and Kante shouting motivation from the fence, Happy felt the unity in the team and that his team was depending on and believing in him. "Everything is for the team. They really helped me to stay motivated. I had to stay motivated for the team to make sure we got the win," he added.
The Rattlers return to action of Sat., Feb. 25 as they face the Jacksonville Dolphins at 1 p.m. at the FAMU tennis complex.