Men's Tennis Knocks Off Lynn for 9th SSC Title

Men's Tennis Knocks Off Lynn for 9th SSC Title
The Bucs won their ninth SSC title. Photo by Jim Hogue

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Fabian Groetsch sat at a table underneath at the Beerman Tennis Center tournament headquarters unaware of what was about to hit him.

Barry assistant coach Thomas Hipp sneaked up behind him and doused him with water.

"Wet feeling," Groetsch said with a smile.

Indeed, Groetsch and No. 3-ranked Barry made a big splash at the Florida Blue Sunshine State Conference men's tennis championships, knocking off top-seeded Lynn, 5-2, in the title match. It was the program's ninth conference title, and the 48th overall for the university.

The Bucs (21-5) avenged an earlier loss to the Fighting Knights (18-3) this year. Barry also reclaimed the league championship after Lynn won it last year.

"The first one we ever won was like winning the national championship, and it still feels like that," Buccaneers coach George Samuel said. "It's such a privilege to win the conference championship. It's just as rewarding this time as it was the first time."

Barry will await the announcement of the NCAA regional pairings at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The announcements will be made during the NCAA Tennis Selections Show at

After Barry's No. 13-ranked doubles team of Marco Mokrzycki and Leo Vivas lost 8-5 to third-ranked Vlad Cirla and Willi Wolfer at the No. 1 flight, the Bucs bounced back when Daniel Schmidt and Fabian Groetsch delivered in a big way. Schmidt and Groetsch put away Max Kouyate and Amaury Van Haelen, 8-4, at No. 2 pairs.

Ollie Lemaitre and Romain Costamagna pushed the Buccaneers ahead 2-1 in the match with an 8-6 victory over Luca Pavanelli and Alessio Iannozzi at No. 3 doubles.

Mokrzycki beat Wolfer in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 1 singles to give Barry a 3-1 lead.

"I'm glad that I could contribute to our success," Mokrzycki said. "Probably the most important thing today was that we won at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles. Fabian performed extremely well today."

Schmidt gave the Bucs a much-needed point when he elevated his game for a 6-4, 6-1 win over Iannozzi at the No. 4 spot. That pushed Barry within a point of clinching the match.

After dropping the first set, Vivas, who had his racquet restrung, bounced back to even the match at a set apiece with a 6-2 win over Benji Kendall. Vivas was leading 3-2 in the third set.

Lemaitre was forced to wait for a court to open before getting his No. 6 singles match started with Van Haelen. He built a 6-2, 1-0 lead when he needed to play no more.

That's because the 27th-ranked Groetsch clinched the title for the Buccaneers with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) win over 18th-ranked Cirla. Groetsch lost to Cirla in the regular season match, playing with a bum wrist.

"Last time, I couldn't play at 100 percent," Groetsch said. "Today I was feeling like I could beat this guy. I also felt really good in doubles.

"I felt this team would get this win, and I played maybe the best match since I've been here. I'm proud of the team because guys like Daniel and Leo played great today. We hope we keep going to win regionals and gain confidence to go to nationals."

In other words, the high stakes brought out the best in the Bucs.

"It was all about AVC," Bucs head athletic trainer Scott Freer said. "Analyze, visualize and capitalize."

Mokrzycki, who's beaten four ranked opponents in his last six matches, won his first singles match in an SSC championship.

"Winning a championship is always nice," Mokrzycki said. "They have great players, Lynn. It's always a great feeling to win against a team that's that good. It feels even better when you've had great matches in the past already.

"Definitely, I think this is going to help a lot to believe in ourselves. We knew we could beat anyone. It's definitely good for the confidence. However, we have to be careful because we're probably gonna have to play Lynn again next week in the regional. We have to play well to win regionals to get to nationals."

Samuel, who's spent 22 years at the school he's poured so much into the tennis program, was grateful his team could give back to the Buccaneers community.

"It's a pleasure to give it to Barry University," he said. "That's what we're the most proud of. We're very thankful for having the opportunity to compete like this for Barry University.

"It's now given us a lot of confidence going into regional play. As a team, this is the tournament that's really kicked it all off. Thomas and I have always stressed championships are what we want to play for. We've had a little bit of a rocky road. Those rocky roads are sometimes blessings in disguise when we have to turn it up. They put it together when it mattered most."