DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- George Samuel has been doing this for 23 years. So what was another tennis match to him? To be frank, it was a milestone match, and the No. 4-ranked Buccaneers sent Samuel off a wet winner.
Samuel won his 400th career match as Barry men's tennis coach as the Bucs defeated No. 1 NAIA Embry-Riddle, 7-2, in a battle away from home. Combined with his 18 years coaching the Bucs women's program, Samuel has 708 career victories overseeing both of Barry's tennis programs.
Samuel's players were waiting for him at the team van after the match, soaking him with a non-alcoholic champagne bath.
"I'm relieved," Samuel said. "You put more pressure on me. It changed the whole feeling I had in the match. I was like, 'Now I'm playing a match for two reasons.' That was a real challenge."
Embry-Riddle gave Barry all it could handle right out of the gates. The Buccaneers lost two of the three doubles matches to fall behind early to the Eagles. And even the one pairs the Bucs won was a struggle.
Barry's No. 2 nationally-ranked Marco Mokrzycki and Fabian Groetsch defeated Patrick Besch and Deni Zmak, 9-8 (7-4) at No. 1 doubles. Embry-Riddle's No. 9-ranked Chris Freeman and J.R. Leonik beat Romain Costamagna and Ollie Lemaitre, 8-4. ERAU's Simon Felix and Kevin Chaouat were 9-7 winners over Renato Lombardi and Max Wimmer.
"We won the first doubles match, but the other two doubles ... we sort of sunk like the Titanic," Samuel said. "They've got a good team. This was one of those teams you want to win against."
Mokrzycki, ranked No. 7 in singles in NCAA Division II, beat Besch, ranked No. 1 in NAIA, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 1 singles. Ranked No. 16, Groetsch defeated Zmak, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), at No. 2. Lombardi beat fifth-ranked Freeman, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, at No. 3.
Wimmer defeated 13th-ranked Felix, 7-6 (9-7), 3-6, 10-5, at No. 4. Costamagna beat Anthony Grasso, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, at No. 5. Barry's Leo Vivas defeated Miguel Lopez Gomez, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 6.
"For four hours, I was wondering what would be the outcome," Samuel said, still a little soaked from the celebratory bath. "It was a shaky, uneasy feeling. It was memorable because all the guys came together and put something together on their own. Also, the effort they put forth for the match was real good."
Barry's players had a cake waiting for Samuel when it was all over that read: "400 Wins."
"I had a funny suspicion something was going to happen," Samuel said of the post-match surprise. "I sort of made myself scarce. I said, 'There's something going on here.' They bought me the cake that said, '400 Wins.' I was taken by that."
Then came the celebratory shower on a 55-degree day. It was one bath he won't forget.
"Cold ... but good," Samuel said. "I was happy. Right now my clothes don't smell too good."
But 400 sure sounds good.