MOBILE, Ala. – The Georgia Gwinnett College men’s tennis team has reached the NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship match for the sixth consecutive season following another commanding victory at the Mobile Tennis Center.
The Grizzlies (26-0) cruised to a 5-0 triumph against No. 5-seeded William Carey University (Miss.) during Friday’s semifinal match. The team will play No. 7-seeded Xavier University (La.) for the title Saturday, May 18, at 10 a.m. It will be the third meeting between the two programs when a national championship is at stake.
GGC, the tournament’s top seed, has not lost a point in three matches at this year’s championships. The team also has won 23 straight matches on the national stage and 108 straight dual matches in regular season and postseason play.
The latest triumph came as Georgia Gwinnett College recorded 8-4 victories on all three doubles courts to race out to an early 3-0 lead against the Crusaders.
“Our doubles (play) was strong today. When we got wins at No. 1 and No. 2, it put pressure on the No. 3 doubles team to get that third point. We have been playing extremely well all week in doubles. We know that we can make the match easy for ourselves if we get out to a 3-0 lead,” said Head Coach Chase Hodges.
Senior Ayed Zatar and sophomore Federico Bonacia registered the first triumph at the top of the doubles lineup. Senior Rafael Coutinho and sophomore Valentino Caratini followed with a win on the No. 2 court. Then, junior Federico Herrera Duran and freshman Daniel Czepielewski rounded out the winners at No. 3 doubles.
The Herrera Duran-Czepielewski tandem won the last three games to pull away from a 5-4 lead to complete the doubles sweep. The GGC team was able to break William Carey’s duo three times in the match.
“At this stage, it is important to not let your opponent have long stretches of the momentum. We led 5-2 in the match (then lost the next two games), but were able to get back to our strong play and not relinquish the momentum,” said Czepielewski. “Our return game was consistent and it allowed us to play well at the net.”
The Grizzlies won the opening set in all six singles matches to maintain positive momentum in the match.
A pair of seniors propelled the team to the national championship match, with straight-set wins in singles.
Zatar gave the team a 4-0 advantage with a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 6 singles. Then, Coutinho won a second-set tiebreaker 7-3 to seal the semifinal match win.
GGC has advanced to the national championship match in all six seasons of postseason eligibility, and is striving for its sixth consecutive NAIA title.
“Saturday will be a big day, with a lot on the line. Our guys will be ready and focused to give it 100-percent effort. This is the goal that we work for throughout the season,” said Hodges.