Azusa Pacific 5
Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) 2
MOBILE, Ala. -- There’s going to be a new NAIA men’s tennis champion, and for the third consecutive year it could be Azusa Pacific.
The second-seed Cougars put together one of their finest performances of the season at just the right time, swamping third-seed and defending champ Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.), 5-2, in the semifinals of the 2005 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship.
The win not only puts the Cougars into tomorrow’s championship match for the third straight year, but it also avenges a 5-0 loss to the Senators in last year’s title match. The Cougars move to 26-3 with their 14th consecutive victory. AUM ends its season at 22-5, snapping its 7-game win streak.
“This was a big win for us,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Mark Bohren. “After coming so close to beating these guys last year, this is sweet revenge. It was a hard fought match against a great team, and our guys just dug deep and played really well. Hopefully we can put another match like this together again tomorrow.”
The Cougars jumped all over the Senators right out of the gate in doubles’ play, putting them in the same 3-0 hole the Senators put the Cougars in last year. Sam Fletcher and Adam Davidson took a quick 6-1 lead on Daniel Plasa and Joel Kusnierz at No. 1 before cruising in for an 8-5 win to put the Cougars up 1-0. David Goodman and Gordon Hong then made it 2-0 with an 8-4 win at No. 3 over David Budler and Fredrico Marty. Then, at No. 2, Boris Bakalov and Tom Jelsma opened up a 3-1 lead on Anton Brykalin and David Bidmeade and then closed out an 8-6 win by holding serve and trading points the rest of the way to give the Cougars 3-0 lead heading into singles.
In a position where they needed just 2 wins in singles, the Cougars went to work. Plasa gave the Senators their first point with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Bakalov at No. 2. Bidmeade then quickly made it 3-2 with a quick 6-2, 6-3 win over Adam Davidson at No. 4.
At that point, the Cougars turned to their 3-time NAIA All-American and the top-ranked singles’ player in the NAIA in Fletcher, who used some impressive shots to squeak out a 7-5, 7-5 win over Brykalin at No. 1 to bring the Cougars within one point of the match.
The Cougars were leading on courts 3 (Goodman) and 5 (Hong) when Jelsma put an end to the match with a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over Willi Frei at No. 6.
Azusa Pacific will now face its third different opponent in its third straight championship match. The Cougars battle top-seed Santa Fe (N.M.), which came back from a 2-1 deficit to cruise past fourth-seed Embry-Riddle (Fla.), 6-3, in the other semifinal. The Cougars become just the second team to play in 3 straight championship matches.
“Hopefully, the third time will be the charm,” said Bohren.
1 – Sam Fletcher (APU) d. Anton Brykalin (AUM) 7-5, 7-5
2 – Daniel Plasa (AUM) d. Boris Bakalov (APU) 6-2, 6-3
3 – David Goodman (APU) vs. Joel Kusnierz (AUM) DNF (7-6 (3), 4-4)
4 – David Bidmeade (AUM) d. Adam Davidson (APU) 6-2, 6-3
5 – Gordon Hong (APU) d. David Budler (AUM) DNF (7-6 (3), 4-4)
6 – Tom Jelsma (APU) d. Willi Frei (AUM) 7-6 (4), 6-3
1 – Fletcher/Davidson (APU) d. Plasa/Kusnierz (AUM) 8-5
2 – Bakalov/Jelsma (APU) d. Brykalin/Bidmeade (AUM) 8-6
3 – Goodman/Hong (APU) d. Budler/Fredrico Marty (AUM) 8-4