MOBILE, Ala. -- For Azusa Pacific tennis it is about a title defense and the search for a first championship.
The top-ranked men are coming off the ultimate on court achievement in college athletics – a national title. Last season, Gordon Hong was the last man standing in 2005 as he clinched the championship with his win over the College of Santa Fe’s Dima Chiracov.
Meanwhile, the women’s team has had one of the strongest in program history and is the third seed in their national tournament. While head coach Mark Bohren had led past editions of Cougars women’s teams to an NAIA final and semi-final appearance in his career. Without diminishing these sterling accomplishments only 1 goal has yet to be accomplished and this might be the magical year.
The caveat is both teams have incredibly challenging roads to travel if they want to reach the championship match let alone capture the title.
Neither team played on Monday because each earned a top-8 seed which granted them a pass to the second round.
The men will face a familiar opponent in the second round in GSAC foe Point Loma Nazarene. The Sea Lions defeated Benedictine (Kan.), 5-4, and face the Cougars for the fourth time this season. Azusa Pacific won the previous 3 meetings including a 5-0 win in the Region II playoffs. The teams will meet at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. pacific).
Bohren was named the 2006 ITA Coach of the Year at the tournament banquet while Tom Jelsma was named the 2006 Arthur Ashe award recipient. Both of the honors were voted on by coaches around the nation. Jelsma’s award is widely considered one of the premiere honors in the NAIA.
The women will square off against Indiana Wesleyan which defeated Oklahoma Christian, 6-3, to advance to the second round. The Cougars are fresh off an appearance in the Region II championship match. Azusa Pacific and Indiana Wesleyan will begin their match at 9 a.m. local time which translates to 7 a.m. pacific.
The NAIA Tournament matches will be held at the same time throughout the week with all women’s matches preceding the men’s contests.
Prior to getting the tournament underway, both Cougar teams spent the day at Washington Middle School instructing a full school assembly on the fundamentals of tennis and the NAIA character pillars.
With the easier part of the week in the rearview mirror now comes the hard part. What Azusa Pacific hopes are a pair of deep runs into the championship begins on Tuesday in earnest.