MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Barry University men’s tennis team won its second straight NCAA South Region title Tuesday, beating Lynn, 5-0, at Buccaneer Tennis Center.
The Buccaneers (23-2) will be making their 18th appearance at the site of the NCAA Finals, where they will meet Drury (23-2) in the Round of 16 at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 14 at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
“Everybody wanted to go back to nationals,” Bucs senior Ollie Lemaitre said on a day he carved his name into Barry’s record books. “With a new team … we’ve got two new good players in the top six, and until now they’ve proved they’re really good players. We want to go back there and try to win it again.”
Barry won last year’s NCAA Division II National Championship in Surprise, Arizona. Before they could get there, the No. 2-seeded Buccaneers had a buzzsaw awaiting them on the other side of the net in the No. 3-seeded Fighting Knights (16-7). That was apparent from the start of doubles, where every match was laced with razor sharp intensity.
The Bucs’ No. 2 pair of Romain Costamagna and Leo Vivas built a 3-0 lead on Lynn’s Vlad Cirla and Pavel Mojha. But the Fighting Knights stormed back to square the match at 3-3. Costamagna held serve to give the Bucs a 4-3 lead before Lynn won the next game. Vivas served for a 5-4 lead before the Bucs broke Lynn’s duo to give Barry a two-game lead. Costamagna held serve again, inching Barry closer to securing the match’s first team point. Lynn claimed the next game to make it 7-5, but Vivas and Costamagna sealed the match, 8-6, to put the Bucs on the board first. The win for Costamagna and Vivas avenged a loss to the same Fighting Knights duo by the same score a week earlier in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament championship.
Lemaitre and Ahmed Triki, the No. 2-ranked doubles team in the country, had been through the ropes before with Lynn’s eighth-ranked Danny Riggs and Paolo Volpicelli. Tuesday was no different at the No. 1 flight.
That’s where Fighting Knights pair broke Lemaitre’s first serve to take a 1-0 lead. Five games later, Triki held serve to knot the match at 3-3. Lemaitre and Triki broke Lynn’s ensuing serve, grabbing a 30-Love lead before fighting through deuce to take a 4-3 lead.
Lemaitre held serve for a 5-3 Bucs lead. Riggs and Volpicelli won the ensuing game before Triki ripped off an ace and Lemaitre hit a winner at the net in the next to put Barry up, 6-4. Lynn won the next game before Lemaitre’s winner and ace moved the Buccaneers within a game of wrapping it up, 7-5. But the Fighting Knights fought off deuce to pull within a game, 7-6. Triki then served for the victory to give Barry a 2-0 lead.
Lemaitre’s doubles victory was the 80th of his career, breaking Marco Mokrzycki’s school record set last season.
“I knew my record was pretty good, but I didn’t know I was about to beat Marco’s record,” Lemaitre said. “He just beat Thomas’ (Hipp) record last year at the last possible match at nationals.
“I love doubles. It’s the thing I love most about tennis because I don’t only rely on myself,” Lemaitre said. “I rely on my partner as well. It’s a chemistry that we both have on the court, and something that I’ve always liked to do.
“We’ve played this team three times this season, and we’ve been tested all three times. Last time, we were 7-6 down on their serve (before prevailing 9-7). Today, we were down a break since the beginning, but were able to come back and finish.”
Barry’s Kevin Sielmann and Renato Lombardi see-sawed back and forth with Lynn’s duo of Tomas Prokop at No. 3 doubles in a topsy-turvy match that tested nerves much like the other two doubles matches. With the Buccaneers trailing by a game with the Fighting Knights serving, Lombardi’s winner tied the match at 4-4.
In the next game, on Lombardi’s serve, Sielmann volleyed for a winner to push Barry ahead, 5-4. The Fighting Knights won the next two games to reclaim the lead, 6-5. But the Bucs broke Lynn’s serve, and then won the ensuing game on Lombardi’s serve to regain control again, 7-6. With the Fighting Knights serving, Sielmann won a cross-court battle, and the Buccaneers swept doubles play with an 8-6 victory.
Lombardi remained on point in singles, beating Giulio Gomba, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 6 singles to put the Bucs up, 4-0. It was Lombardi’s 14th victory of the season, and his eighth in Barry’s last 10 matches.
Nico Dreer sealed the deal for the Bucs with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Mojha at No. 4 singles to clinch the match. Dreer improved to a team-best 16-1 this season, and has also won eight in the Bucs’ last 10 matches.
Seventh-ranked Triki led 7-6 (7-4), 1-2, in his No. 1 singles match with the 18th-ranked Cirla. Barry’s No. 12 Fabian Groetsch was up a set on No. 49 Riggs, 7-6 (7-1), at No. 2. Costamagna was leading the 46th-ranked Prokop, 6-4, 1-4, at No. 3. Vivas had built a 6-0, 4-3 lead on Volpicelli at No. 5.
It was the last match at Buccaneer Tennis Center for Lemaitre, Vivas and Costamagna – all three departing seniors.
“It’s a little nostalgic because I’ve been here four years,” Lemaitre said. “Senior Day, I thought it was the last one, but then we hosted regionals. Now I know I’m not going to play on these courts anymore. But I’m still going to be around next semester, and I’m probably going to help out with the team.”
For now, there is more work to be done in 2014.