Back-to-Back: Men's Tennis Crowned SSC Champions

Back-to-Back: Men's Tennis Crowned SSC Champions
Barry men's tennis won its second straight league title in beating league nemesis Lynn, 5-2. Photo by Joel Auerbach

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Assistant coach Francisco Sigaud couldn't contain himself.

"Hey, let's hear it for the legend," Sigaud said.

He was referring to head coach Dr. George Samuel, who was then serenaded with a chorus of cheers and extended applause from Barry University men's tennis' gathering at the post-game meal celebration, following the No. 2 Buccaneers' 5-2 win over No. 4 Lynn in the Sunshine State Conference Championship match.

"Winning the conference title really means a lot to me," said Samuel, who has collected 10 league titles with the men's program in his 22 years at the helm in Miami Shores. "I really want to win this title."

He and the Buccaneers now own the distinction of becoming back-to-back league champs in collecting the school's 51 SSC championship in the athletic program's history.

"Go Bucs," junior Ollie Lemaitre said after keying two victories in this title, including the clinching singles point. "On to the next one."

The next one is, of course, the NCAA Tournament, and the Buccaneers (23-0) are a lock to host the South Regional April 28-29 at Buccaneer Tennis Center. The pairings will be released Tuesday night.

Max Wimmer and Lemaitre spotted Barry a 1-0 lead after beating Max Kouyate and Alessio Iannozi, 8-3, at No. 2 doubles.The Bucs pair took a commanding 5-2 lead when, with Lemaitre serving, Wimmer rose from a crouch position and pounded Lynn's return down for a winner at the net.

Then the always effervescent Romain Costamagna and Leo Vivas, whose energy transcends throughout Buccaneers lineup, delivered another 8-3 pairs victory in beating Simon Gloeckner and Pavel Mohja at the No. 3 spot. With Vivas serving, Costamagna crushed a ball to unoccupied territory to push Barry to a 7-2 lead.

"It's a great feeling having a partner who's so positive, so full of fire all the time," Vivas said of the affectionately-known Costa. "The good thing about having that kind of fire on the team is when you're having a bad day, it can help you. He can transfer the energy in a good way.

"The thing about me and Costa, every match we've played, we play it like it was the final. Every time we enter the court, everything's positive. We go in with the mentality it doesn't matter who's in front of us ... we're going to try to beat them 8-0. It's a mentality we share."

Vivas and Costamagna have won eight of their 10 doubles matches.

"It was unbelievable," Costamagna said. "We were so pumped from the first point to the last point. Yesterday we didn't play very good, so today we knew we had to step up our level."

Barry's No. 2-ranked duo of Marco Mokrzycki and Fabian Groetsch fell to third-ranked Willi Wolfer and Vlad Cirla, 8-5, at the top flight. That left the Buccaneers in front, 2-1, entering singles play.

Wimmer, the always cool and cocksure German who is ranked No. 22 in singles, made history himself on this day in Boca Raton when he beat 27th-ranked Kouyate, 6-4, 6-1, at the No. 3 spot for the Bucs' first singles point. With the victory, Wimmer tied Barry assistant coach Thomas Hipp's school singles record in collecting his 67th career win.

Ranked fourth in the nation, Mokrzycki grinded through a back-and-forth first set against the ninth-ranked Wolfer, who's battled injuries this season, before pulling out a 7-6 (5) win entering the brief intermission. 

"I started the match really well early," said Mokrzycki, who was up a break in the embryonic stages of the match. "Suddenly, the match turned and ... he broke me back. I'm pretty sure he was handicapped a little bit, but actually he played really well.

"He had some really nice shots. I got the impression when he was down he played a little bit riskier, and he had some phenomenal shots. That gave him the possibility to come back in the first set."

After the first-set intermission in which Mokrzycki changed gear, the Buccaneers German-born senior elevated his game in the final set, putting Wolfer away 6-0 to clinch Barry's fourth team point.

"I felt like I was in control the whole match, even in the first set when it was close," Mokrzycki said. "I had more chances to break him. Every match is different. Sometimes one break is enough. Sometimes you have to break him as much as possible to steal his self-esteem, and be pumped yourself.

"I saw that he was a little bit beaten up (in the second set), so I was trying to close the match out as quick as possible, and as efficient as possible."

The Bucs were pumped alright, and Lemaitre was no exception. A junior from New Caledonia, Lemaitre rebounded from a first-set funk to win, 0-6, 6-3, 6-0, at No. 6 to clinch the title for the Buccaneers. Vivas led Mohja, 7-6 (7), in the No. 5 match.

"It's a tournament, it's a title, so it's always good to win," Costamagna said. "It was the first step after the regular season. Now we are going to go back to Barry and work even harder. It's a title for everyone. Family."

A family indeed this Buccaneer men's tennis program is, what with its large coaching contingent and extended roster, where playing time isn't always offered in equal rewards. But when you're taking home hardware, all of that means nothing.

"Winning the Sunshine State Conference is always amazing," Mokrzycki said before getting ready to enjoy a post-game meal amidst an exuberant Bucs bunch. "It's a title that defines our season so far. And at that same time, it gives us validation for what we've done so far."

Now the real journey begins.