MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – In an intense, back-and-forth battle decided in the third three-set singles match, fifth-seeded Saint Leo rallied from a 4-2 deficit to beat fourth-seeded Rollins, 5-4, in the South Region semifinals at Barry University’s Buccaneer Tennis Center Sunday night.
After Rollins Malte Christesen won the final two sets in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 No. 2 singles victory over Bruno Sisti to move the Tars (13-11) within a point of clinching, the Lions (16-5) responded with unbelievable fortitude.
Saint Leo’s 28th-ranked Matt Nicholson-Lewis won his No. 4 singles match over Sebastian Hafner, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 to pull the Lions within one. After dropping the first set, 18th-ranked Aloua Adjenak came back to beat 29th-ranked Will Kwok, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, at the No. 1 flight to tie the match at 4-all.
Then with all eyes turned to the final singles match on Court 6, Saint Leo’s Jacobo Gonzalez rallied from a third-set deficit to defeat Jacobo Herrero, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, at No. 6 singles. Gonzalez trailed 4-3 in the third set, but survived a ton of long rallies and extended games to send the Lions on to the region finals.
Ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II, Saint Leo will play No. 2 Barry (24-0) at 10 a.m. Monday for the South Region 1 Championship.
Rollins, which was ranked sixth in the country entering the match, won the top two doubles flights. Seventeenth-ranked Kwok and Jason Alabaster cruised to an 8-1 triumph over Adjenak and Jake Fleischer at No. 1 doubles. Christesen and Robin Marchione defeated Saint Leo’s Nicholson-Lewis and Victor Lozier, 8-5, at No. 2 pairs to put the Tars ahead 2-1.
Sisti and Ismail Lemtouni picked up the Lions doubles point with an 8-6 win over Adrian Di Felice and Cooper Maxwell at the third doubles spot.
Marchione, the 34th-ranked singles player in the nation, defeated Lozier, 6-4, 6-3, at No. 3 singles. That gave Rollins a 3-2 lead. Lemtouni’s 7-5, 6-2 win over Di Felice tied the match at 2-2.