GGC men claim conference tennis championship

The top-seeded Georgia Gwinnett men’s tennis team took down Xavier 5-1 to capture the Grizzlies’ first postseason title at the Unaffiliated A.I.I./Gulf Coast/Red River/Sooner tennis tournament in New Orleans on Saturday.

The GGC women fell 5-3 in the finals to Xavier.

The men’s final between the NAIA’s No. 3 and No. 10 teams was played on the Gold Rush’s home courts at the XU Tennis Center in New Orleans.

The Grizzlies remain unbeaten at 17-0 on the season while Xavier dropped to 11-11.

“It feels great to win the conference championship for Georgia Gwinnett,” GGC head coach Chase Hodges said. “It’s fantastic any time you can win one, but with it being the first for our sport, it’s a big deal.”

The Grizzlies won two of three doubles points to build an early advantage. Bruno Tiberti and Mark Verryth teamed up for an 8-1 win at second doubles to get things going. After Luke Morland and Nathan de Veer were tripped at first doubles, 8-3, to tie the match, Connor Clements and Matias Hatem pulled out an 8-6 victory to regain the Grizzly advantage.

In singles play, it was all Grizzlies as GGC won straight-sets decisions at second, third and fourth singles to clinch the match.

Erik Moberg sailed 6-1, 6-0 at No. 4, Tiberti earned a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 2 and Hatem won 6-1, 6-3 at No. 3 to seal the victory.

When the match halted, one set had been decided in each of the other three singles competitions.

The Grizzlies earned the second postseason championship for Georgia Gwinnett College in the school’s first year of eligibility with Saturday’s win.

“We are happy with our performance today, but we have our eyes set on Mobile,” Hodges said. “Our goal all year has been that national title in May.”

The rally for the top-ranked GGC women fell short in the championship match.

Second-seeded Xavier (15-6) built a 3-0 lead through doubles play and made it 4-0 with the first singles win before the top-seeded Grizzlies (14-4) launched their comeback bid.

“The slow start really cost us the match today as it was too big a hole,” Hodges said. “In singles, the girls picked up the energy level and intensity.”

Ines Costamagna put GGC on the board with a 6-1, 6-0 win at sixth singles and Chiara di Salvo won by the same score at fourth singles to make it 4-2 overall.

Paloma Cortina edged out a 7-6 (3), 6-2 win at third singles to bring the Grizzlies within a point, but Kourtney Howell took out Judith van Fraaijenhoven, 7-5, 6-3, at second singles to seal XU’s 5-3 win.

GGC’s Luma Schwab was up a set in her battle at fifth singles when the match was decided.

It was the Grizzlies’ first loss of the year to an NAIA team as the two squads are now 1-1 against each other on the year.

“We’ve split two matches now with Xavier and we may see them again this season,” Hodges said. “We lost the battle today but hopefully we can win the war.”

Both teams now wait for the bracket to be released for the NAIA national championships, which will be played May 13-17 in Mobile, Ala.