AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific avenged its worst loss of the season by handing No. 3-ranked Concordia a 6-3 defeat, giving the Cougars the inside track to second place in the Golden State Athletic Conference, along with a top-4 NAIA ranking heading into the national tournament.
Since a 7-2 loss at Concordia March 12, Azusa Pacific has reeled off 10 wins in 11 matches, with the lone defeat a narrow 5-4 decision to top-ranked defending NAIA champion Fresno Pacific. During the stretch, 8 of the Cougars’ 11 opponents were ranked in the top 25 of their respective associations, with 6 of them having top-10 rankings. With the win, Azusa Pacific is now 9-3 against NAIA-ranked opponents this season, with 2 losses to Fresno Pacific and 7 wins against teams in the top 10 of the NAIA rankings.
Concordia has completed its regular-season schedule with a 10-4 conference record, and Azusa Pacific is 10-3 in GSAC play with just 1 conference match remaining, an April 27 matchup at home against Biola. The Cougars defeated Biola, 7-2, with a partial squad in the teams’ March 18 meeting in La Mirada.
A doubles sweep gave Azusa Pacific an early momentum boost. Leading the way was the Cougars’ No. 3 doubles tandem of senior Ronald Chow and sophomore Alex Lane, who won their 12th straight doubles match with an 8-1 win. Senior Matthijs Bolsius and freshman Jochem Hoefnagels topped Concordia’s Andrey Potapkin and Bruno Santarelli by a 9-7 margin at the No. 1 position, and the No. 2 tandem of senior Mathias Weber and sophomore Janosch Apelt completed the sweep with an 8-5 victory.
On the year, Azusa Pacific has posted a combined 36-4 record from the No. 2 and 3 doubles positions, with the Apelt/Weber and Chow/Lane combinations accumulating a 25-2 mark at those spots. Apelt and Weber have recorded 9 straight victories in doubles, compiling a 14-1 overall mark together this year.
With doubles sweep in hand, Azusa Pacific won 4 of the 6 opening sets in singles play. Lane posted the first Cougar victory in singles, notching a 6-1, 6-3 win over Kareem Berdai at No. 3, and Weber clinched the match victory for the Cougars with a straight-sets win over Ryan McNamara at No. 5. Weber scored the final 4 points of an opening-set tiebreaker and jumped out to an early lead in the second before holding off McNamara for the 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 win.
The Cougars’ final singles victory came from Bolsius at the No. 1 spot, where he rallied to win 6 of the final 7 points in a second-set tiebreaker for the 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) win.
Santarelli picked up Concordia’s only straight-sets singles win, edging Hoefnagels in both sets at No. 4, 7-5, 6-4. Apelt and Potapkin split sets at No. 2, and an early injury in the third set forced Apelt to retire from the set later for a 6-2, 2-6, 4-1 defeat. The final match of the afternoon went to a super tiebreaker set after Chow and Concordia’s Jan Guler each won a set by a 6-4 margin at No. 6. Guler’s double fault tied the score at 3-3 in the third-set super tiebreaker, but Guler scored 7 of the final 8 points for the 10-4 victory.
With the victory, Azusa Pacific improves to 16-4 overall, while Concordia is now 15-4 on the year. Up next for the Cougars is a break from team tennis play, with several of Azusa Pacific’s top players competing in singles and doubles at the 110th Annual Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament beginning on Friday, April 23, at the Ojai Valley Tennis Club.