MOBILE, Ala. -- Three quick straight-set victories for Azusa Pacific in singles play wrapped up a 5-1 win over Shorter (Ga.) College for the No. 3-seeded Cougars Wednesday afternoon in the second round of the NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship.
The victory extends Azusa Pacific’s unmatched streak of NAIA quarterfinals appearances to 11, spanning all 11 seasons of the NAIA’s current team championship format. The Cougars’ quarterfinal foe is Golden State Athletic Conference rival Vanguard, the tournament’s No. 6-seed and the victim of a regular-season sweep to Azusa Pacific in conference play this season.
Sophomores Janosch Apelt and Alex Lane and senior Ronald Chow provided the 3 victories in singles play, after all 3 had posted doubles victories that gave the Cougars an early 2-1 advantage.
Lane was the first to finish in both doubles and singles, teaming up with Chow at No. 3 doubles for the pair’s 14th win of the season but their first perfect 8-0 sweep. Lane followed with a quick 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 3 before Apelt quickly followed with a win at No. 2 singles by an identical score that propelled Azusa Pacific to a 4-1 lead with 4 singles players remaining. All had won their opening sets, and Chow was the one who closed out the match by notching a 6-2, 6-0 win at the No. 6 spot.
“Winning this first match is a great feeling, and I was happy that it was such a strong effort all the way around,” Cougar head coach Mark Bohren said. “However, in less than 24 hours we face our next challenge, which will be a quality opponent from our own conference that doesn’t want to let us beat them for the third time this season. We need to make sure we respond with the same type of effort and performance that we got today.”
Apelt and senior Mathias Weber rallied from a 5-4 deficit at No. 2 doubles with crucial back-to-back service breaks, and the pair held serve for the 8-5 win. In singles, Weber reeled off 5 straight games for a 6-2 opening-set win at the No. 5 position, and he held a 2-1 advantage in the third set when Chow’s victory on the No. 6 court ended the match.
In his first national tournament experience, freshman Jochem Hoefnagels held a 7-5, 3-2 advantage at No. 4 singles, while senior Matthijs Bolsius delivered a clutch 7-5 set tiebreaker victory to claim his opening set at No. 1 singles. Bolsius and Hoefnagels surrendered a late service break at No. 1 doubles in an 8-4 defeat to Shorter’s top tandem, Luis Quintero and Badr Cherradi.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 19-4 on the season, while Shorter wraps up the season with a final overall record of 15-6.
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS CUP: Azusa Pacific has won 5 consecutive Directors’ Cup trophies, earning recognition as the best overall athletics program in the NAIA, and the Cougars’ pursuit of an NAIA-record sixth Cup hinges on national tournament finishes by 4 Azusa Pacific spring sports programs (men’s & women’s tennis and men’s & women’s track & field).
The Directors’ Cup is a prestigious awards program administered by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) that annually honors the best overall collegiate athletics programs in the country. Points are awarded to each school based on the postseason national tournament finish of a pre-determined number of men’s and women’s sports. The NAIA award is tabulated using a maximum of 6 men’s and 6 women’s sports. In tennis, an appearance in the quarterfinals has been worth 70 Directors’ Cup points, with a semifinals appearance worth 83 points.