Courtesy: Armstrong Atlantic State Athletics
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - In a titanic championship match lasting exactly five hours, the No. 1-ranked and defending DII national champion Armstrong Atlantic State men's tennis team erased a 2-1 deficit in doubles to win, 5-4, over No. 2-ranked Barry and capture its second consecutive NCAA Division II Men's Tennis Championship on Saturday in Altamonte Springs.
The match came down to No. 5 singles, where AASU (30-1) sophomore Rafael Array and Barry's Roman Werschel played a three-set match to determine the match. Array won the first set, 6-4, but Werschel rallied to win the second set, 7-5, and set up one set for the title. Array broke Werschel's serve at 5-3, winning the pivotal point at 14-50 and giving the Pirates their second NCAA Division II Men's Tennis title. Barry finishes runner-up for the fourth time in school history and ends its season at 27-3.
It was the first time since 2003 and the eighth time overall that the NCAA DII Men's Tennis championship has been decided by a 5-4 score. The Pirates are the first back-to-back champions since West Florida in 2004-05.
Barry started off well, taking a 2-1 lead after doubles. The Pirates got on the board first with an 8-3 win at No. 3 doubles by Eudaldo Bonet and Akos Torok, over Jakub Fefjar and Sergio Velez. Barry picked up a late break at No. 1 doubles and the duo of Emmanuel Fraitzl and Max Wimmer edged Paul Bishop and Mikk Irdoja, 8-6. At the pivotal No. 2 doubles match, Rafael Array and Tim Johannsen found themselves down, 6-3, but battled back to take a 7-6 lead, only to watch the team of Ales Svigelj and Andrew Sharnov come away with a 9-7 victory.
In singles, every match but the final one ended in straight sets, setting up the drama. No. 26-ranked Mikk Irdoja gave the Pirates a singles point with a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 46-ranked Andrew Sharnov at No. 3 singles. Max Wimmer knocked off 50th-ranked Paul Fitzgerald, 6-2, 6-3, at No. 4 singles, handing Fitzgerald his first dual match singles loss of the season.
Tim Johannsen defeated Jakub Fefjar, 6-4, 6-0, at No. 6 singles to even the match up at 3-3. Barry was one point away from the title after No. 18-ranked Emmanuel Fraitzl defeated No. 20-ranked Paul Bishop, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 2 singles, but No. 2-ranked Eudaldo Bonet won a pivotal first-set tiebreak and went on to a 7-6, 6-0, win over No. 5 Ales Svigelj at No. 1 singles to make it 4-4.
In the regular season, the two teams met with AASU also winning that time out, 5-4, giving the Sanlando Park crowd an indication of how this year's championship match might shake out.