FRESNO, Calif. -- Tied 3-3 with only its captain left on the court, the Saint Mary's men's tennis team had to feel pretty good about its chances Friday at Fresno State.
Joakim Norstrom got the clutch win the Gaels needed, as his victory at No. 3 singles delivered a hard-fought 4-3 decision for Saint Mary's over the Bulldogs and got the spring season started on a great note.
Fresno State (0-1) entered the match ranked No. 50 in the country, according to the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings.
That didn't matter much to Saint Mary's (1-0), which stormed out of the gate to claim the doubles point. Jesse Kiuru and Norstrom teamed up to get an 8-4 win over Sai Kartik Nakireddi and Jeremy Quiroz at No. 1 doubles, and Seif El Sherbini teamed with Thomas Hunt to get a 9-8 win over Sam McNeil and Felipe Fritz at No. 3.
Fresno State came back once singles began, earning straight-set wins at No. 6 and No. 1 singles to take a 2-1 lead.
Tuomas Manner, the West Coast Conference singles player of the month in October, righted the ship for the Gaels with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Quiroz at No. 2 singles.
The Gaels and Bulldogs split the next two matches, with Fresno State winning at No. 5 singles and El Sherbini evening the match with a 6-3, 7-6 win over Fritz at No. 4.
That set up Norstrom to be the deciding player, and after dropping the first set 3-6 to McNeil, the native of Stockholm, Sweden rallied to win the second 6-3.
Norstrom took control in the third and didn't look back, winning the final frame 6-2 to give himself and the Gaels the victory.
The win is Saint Mary's first ever against Fresno State, and gives the Gaels good momentum as they wrap up their trip to the Central Valley with a 2 p.m. match against Cal Poly on Saturday.