AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 4-ranked Azusa Pacific suffered its second straight 5-4 defeat to a surging conference foe, as the Cougars were edged in Wednesday’s regular-season finale by No. 7-ranked Point Loma Nazarene.
The loss kept Azusa Pacific from clinching sole possession of second place, and the Cougars will share second with Point Loma and potentially Westmont, which posted a 5-4 win over Azusa Pacific April 12. The Cougars defeated both teams by a 7-2 margin in the first meetings of both season series. Westmont will likely join the second-place tie after taking on a Biola squad Thursday that is 2-11 in GSAC play.
“A couple of guys did not compete as well today as they normally do, and that was the difference,” Cougar head coach Mark Bohren said. “Losing is never fun, but the only thing you can do is learn from it. We’re going to work hard after finals and hopefully be able to turn things around in time for nationals.”
As has been the case in 5 of its 6 losses this year, Azusa Pacific fell behind with losses in at least 2 of the 3 doubles matches. Although junior Janosch Apelt and Jochem Hoefnagels returned to the win column with an 8-4 win at No. 1 doubles to improve to 17-3 on the year, Point Loma Nazarene notched wins in the No. 2 and No. 3 matchups to take a 2-1 lead into singles play.
Apelt suffered a quick 6-1, 6-3 defeat to the Sea Lions’ Joel Myers at the top of the singles lineup, although straight-set wins from freshman Ben Eger at No. 3 and junior Ilja Ikonnikov at No. 5 evened the match at 3-3. However, the Cougars still needed wins in 2 of the 3 remaining matches, and Point Loma Nazarene completed straight-set wins at No. 4 and No. 6 before Hoefnagels could post a 3-set victory over Tyler Bowman at the No. 2 spot.
With the defeat, Azusa Pacific finishes the regular season with its only back-to-back losses of the year, falling to 15-6 overall and 10-4 in GSAC play. Point Loma Nazarene moves into a tie for second, finishing the regular season at 15-7 overall, 10-4 GSAC. The next team competition for both teams is the NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship, which is held May 17-21 in Mobile, Ala.
“This team has overachieved all season, and we’ve had a great year even though we’re not close to being as talented as we have been in recent years,” Bohren said. “I still think we can be very successful at the national tournament.”