Pirates Earn First Championship Berth with 5-1 Win over West Florida
HOUSTON, Texas - The top-ranked and undefeated Armstrong
Atlantic State men's tennis team will make its first-ever
appearance in the NCAA Division II National Championship match
following Friday's 5-1 win over No. 3 West Florida in the
semifinals at Memorial Park in Houston, Texas.
The Pirates (30-0) will face fifth-ranked Barry in the final at 1:00 p.m. A win would give AASU its first-ever national championship in a men's sport.
AASU dominated in doubles, taking two quick wins as Paul Bishop and Davor Zink defeated Luis Arboleda and Diego Zorzi, 8-2, at No. 3 doubles and 17th-ranked Robert Jendelund and Christian Bergh notched an 8-5 win over 16th-ranked Nicolas Barrientos and Patrick Bateman at No. 2 singles. The No. 1 doubles team of Rafael Array and Tim Johannsen led, 7-4, but West Florida's duo of Eduardo Cavasotti and Luis Bernardi picked up a key service break to push the match to 7-7. A break by the sixth-ranked duo in the nation for the Pirates, however, gave AASU the 9-7 win at No. 1 doubles and a commanding 3-0 lead.
"We felt very satisfied (about the doubles lead)," AASU junior Paul Bishop said after the match. "But at the same time, we were very focused. We know that the match isn't over until it's over."
In singles play, the Pirates won first sets in four of six matches. Array picked up AASU's first singles point at No. 4 singles with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Arboleda at No. 4 singles. West Florida (24-5) got on the board at No. 2 singles as Barrientos defeated Jendelund, 6-4, 6-3, making the score 4-1. Just a couple of minutes later, however, Christian Bergh sent the Pirates into the final with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Bernardi at No. 5 singles.
On making the final, Bishop said, "It makes me feel amazing. It's extremely important for us since we've been ranked No. 1 all, but this is really where it counts."
AASU will face one of the teams that gave the Pirates their closest matches of the season in Barry. On April 9 in Miami Shores, Fla., the Pirates pulled out a tough 5-4 road win against the Bucs. Add to that the pressure of a first-ever national title match and the Pirates believe it will be a tough task tomorrow to bring home the trophy.
"We expect it to be difficult," Bishop said. "Even though we've beaten the other teams (in the regular season), a final is a final and everybody's going to give everything they have."
The men join AASU's women's team in national championship, giving the Pirates the opportunity to win dual national championships in tennis for the first time since BYU-Hawaii accomplished the task in 2003.