MOBILE, Ala. -- It is only fitting.
They have battled in years past ousting each other from the national tournament and clashed in the championship match before.
Azusa Pacific beat Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), 5-1, to set up a showdown with Auburn Montgomery tomorrow where winner takes all.
The Cougars continued a truly remarkable postseason run with their fourth consecutive trip to the NAIA final. They are 1-3 in those appearances but their win came last season and Azusa Pacific is now primed to win back-to-back titles for the first time in program history. The Senators are seeking their sixth men's tennis national championship.
The importance of playing well in doubles in the national tournament cannot be understated and the Cougars once again jumped out to a lead after the completion of that portion of the match.
The most impressive performance was turned in by the No. 1 team of Boris Bakalov and Tom Jelsma. The pair has not just played well but has dominated opponents, particularly in the postseason. Their 8-3 win over Bruno Andrade and Everton Silva set the tone for the solid team performance.
Jelsma joined Patrick Kur and David Goodman as winners in singles that got the final 3 points needed to put Azusa Pacific back in the championship match.
The meeting between the Senators and Cougars will mean that the teams have met in each of the past 3 national tournaments. In the 2004 championship match, AUM beat the Cougars, 5-0. Last season, Azusa Pacific returned the favor with a 5-2 thumping in the semifinals. Will this be another year of revenge for 1 of the 2 squads or will the Cougars repeat? There are plenty of scintillating story lines that will be played out.
Goodman and Cole Billings were solid at No. 3 doubles as they defeated Francisco Redando and Brian Ly, 8-5.
“We have been here the past 3 years so we have the experience working in our favor,” said head coach Mark Bohren. “But Auburn Montgomery is a very talented team and it will be a challenge for our guys.”
Azusa Pacific bettered its record to 26-1 while Freed Hardeman saw its season come to a close at 23-4.
#1 - Boris Bakalov (APU) vs. Fransisco Redando (FHU), 7-6, 2-1 DNF
#2 - Patrick Kur (APU) def. Ivan Besancon (FHU), 6-1, 6-2
#3 - David Goodman (APU) def. Bruno Andrade (FHU), 6-3, 6-4
#4 - Tom Jelsma (APU) def. Lukas Hanak (FHU), 6-1, 6-3
#5 - Cole Billings (APU) vs. Brian Ly (FHU), 2-6, 2-5 DNF
#6 - Art Fatkiev (APU) vs. Everton Silva (FHU), 3-6, 3-4 DNF
#1 - Bakalov/Jelsma (APU) def. Andrade/Silva (FHU), 8-3
#2 - Besancon/Hanak (FHU) def. Kur/Fatkiev (APU), 8-6
#3 - Goodman/Billings (APU) def. Redando/Ly (FHU), 8-5