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Cougars are Tennis Champs

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May 20, 2005
Micah McDaniel
Azusa Pacific 5
Santa Fe (N.M.) 3

NAIA Championship Match

MOBILE, Ala. -- For Azusa Pacific, the third time is indeed the charm.

Saddled with 2 consecutive years of frustrating losses in the NAIA championship match, the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific defeated top-seed Santa Fe (N.M.), 5-3, to win the 2005 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship Friday in Mobile, Ala.

The title is the first in the history of the program and avenges losses to Oklahoma Christian in 2003 and Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) in 2004. The Cougars conclude their magical season at 27-3 with 15 straight wins.

For the third straight tournament, Sam Fletcher was named the Ward-Ballinger Memorial Award winner given to the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Azusa Pacific has been one of the top teams in the NAIA the past 3 years. The Cougars were ranked No. 1 for all but 3 weeks the past 3 seasons, and they are the only team to play in 3 straight title matches. They accomplished almost everything, except a national title.

All that changed Friday.

“I can’t describe the feeling that came over us when we finally won,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Mark Bohren. “The relief of not having won it the past 2 years was lifted. If anything, this just proved how good we are as a team this year, because Santa Fe and Auburn-Montgomery are outstanding teams. I’m so happy for our seniors.”

The Cougars quickly jumped out to a 2-1 lead after winning at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles. Then in singles play, Boris Bakalov quickly made it 3-1 Cougars with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Daniel Scholten at No. 2.

The Spin, who were playing in their first national title match, tied the match within a matter of minutes. Ivan Angulo downed David Goodman, 7-5, 6-1, at No. 3, and Ricardo Omana defeated senior Adam Davidson, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 4.

All eyes then turned to Court 1 where Fletcher continued to dominate the NAIA circuit as he pulled out a 6-4, 6-4 win over Andre Begemann to give the Cougars a 4-3 lead.

At that point, both Tom Jelsma at No. 6, and Gordon Hong at No. 5 put themselves in position to clinch the match. Hong led 1-0 on Dima Chiracov and took a quick 5-2 lead in the second set. At virtually the same time, Jelsma was leading 5-2 in the third set. Jelsma and Anibal Aranda were tied 30-30 when Chiracov’s volley slammed into the net, giving the match to Hong and the title to the Cougars, sending the Cougars into a relieved frenzy.

“We knew we couldn’t relax after yesterday’s win (over Auburn-Montgomery),” said Davidson, one of 3 seniors. “Yesterday was great to get our revenge, but we weren’t satisfied until we won the title. When Gordon finally won, he threw his racquet about 50 feet in the air and we all rushed the court. It was phenomenal. This is so much more satisfying knowing that we went through all the adversity the past 2 years.”

1 - Sam Fletcher (APU) d. Andre Begemann (CSF), 6-4; 6-4
2 - Boris Bakalov (APU) d. Daniel Scholten (CSF), 6-1; 6-3
3 - Ivan Angulo (CSF) d. David Goodman (APU), 7-5; 6-1
4 - Ricardo Omana (CSF) d. Adam Davidson (APU), 6-3; 6-2
5 - Gordon Hong (APU) d. Dima Chiracov (CSF), 6-4; 6-2
6 - Anibal Aranda (CSF) vs. Tom Jelsma (APU), 0-6; 6-1; 5-2 DNF

1 – Fletcher/Davidson (APU) d. Omana/Angula (CSF), 8-5
2 – Scholten/Begemann (CSF) d. Bakalov/Jelsma (APU), 8-5
3 – Hong/Goodman (APU) d. Chiriacov/Aranda (CSF), 8-6