Airborn to Arizona: Men's Tennis Wins NCAA South Regional

Airborn to Arizona: Men's Tennis Wins NCAA South Regional
Barry men's tennis team won the South Region 1 Championship to advance to the NCAA Finals in Surprise, Ariz., next week. Photo by Jim McCurdy


MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Leo Vivas was starting to hear the words ring out. "El Presidente ... El Presidente," belted out his small chorus of inner followers.

Then within seconds, Vivas sealed the deal with an ace in his 6-3, 6-4 No. 5 singles victory over Ismail Lemtouni to send Barry University men's tennis team on to the NCAA Division II Championships, following Monday's 5-0 South Region 1 Championship win over No. 15 Saint Leo at Buccaneer Tennis Center.

El Presidente and the Buccaneers laid down the law.

"I don't know," Vivas said, sporting a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon the Buccaneers will be competing for a national title just four hours south of next week. "It's just a nickname they gave me."

Vivas and the No. 2-ranked Buccaneers (25-0) earned their stripes after clinching their 17th trip to the NCAA Finals, where they will meet No. 32 Northwood, Mich. (17-4) at 10 a.m. EST/7 a.m. Arizona Wednesday, May 8 in the Round of 16 at Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex.

"The team performed very well today. Everyone came out just pumped up for nationals," Vivas said. "We've been preparing for this for so long. Everyone's ready, everyone is playing great. I can feel everyone wants to win."

Barry (25-0) swept the doubles to put the Bucs ahead 3-0 entering singles, needing two points to begin booking airfare to Arizona. No. 2-ranked Marco Mokrzycki and Fabian Groetsch were dominant in efficiently putting away Aloua Adjenak and Jake Fleischer at the top pairs flight.

Romain Costamagna and Vivas defeated Bruno Sisti and Lemtouni, 8-3, at No. 3 doubles. Max Wimmer and Ollie Lemaitre were 8-5 winners over Matt Nicholson-Lewis and Victor Lozier in a match the Bucs had to recover from an early deficit.

"With this particular match today, it's the kind of match that signals everything you work for," Bucs head coach George Samuel said. "Everything rode on this match. If you don't come out and try your best, you can throw everything away."

Groetsch, the 19th-ranked singles player in the country, meant business in defeating Lozier, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 3 singles. That moved Barry within a point of wrapping up the region title.

Wimmer, the 22nd-ranked singles player, labored through a first set against Sisti at No. 2, despite having his serve clocked at 134 miles per hour. Wimmer, who is a win away becoming the school's career leader in singles victories, overcame a 5-4 first-set defict to win 7-6 (5).

Lemaitre won his first set 6-2 over Jacobo Gonzalez at No. 6. Costamagna won his opening set, 6-2, over the 28th-ranked Nicholson-Lewis. But, like Wimmer, both were too far back in the second set to clinch the necessary fifth point.

It became a race between Vivas and the fourth-ranked Mokrzycki to decide it. Mokrzycki had the 18th-ranked Adjenak under control throughout the No. 1 singles match, winning the first set, 6-2. Barry's senior German-born Male Athlete of the Year led the Lions' top player 5-4 in the second set, but Vivas sent a forehand winner down the line and then ripped off the ace to clinch it.

"My match, I started pretty lethargic, but at the end I started playing my match as I wanted," Vivas said.

Now the Buccaneers have the trip planned they've been wanting all year long.

"We are very excited to go to Arizona," Barry assistant coach Thomas Hipp said. "We are just taking it one match at a time. Now the players can focus on academics for the rest of the week before nationals, where we can really enjoy being at the biggest stage."

What a stage it's been for this Buccaneer team -- the only one in school history to go through the regular season with an unblemished record.

"I think this win is going to be very helpful to this team. They're playing with a lot of confidence," Samuel said. "I'm just so pleased with this season. It's been incredible."