By: Ed Cassiere, Xavier (La.) Sports Information Director
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Xavier University of Louisiana sophomore Brion Flowers rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory against Paula Diaz on Sunday to clinch the Gold Nuggets' 5-4 women's tennis victory against Auburn Montgomery -- the NAIA's No. 1 team and three-time defending national champion -- in the AUM Invitational.
Xavier's men lost 7-2 to Auburn Montgomery. XU's men are ranked ninth, and AUM is second.
The Gold Nuggets (7-4), ranked fifth, defeated a top-ranked team for the first time in the history of the program, which began in the mid-1990s. Xavier won 6-3 at home last season against AUM when the Warhawks were ranked third.
Xavier took a 4-1 lead in the dual, including victories in all three doubles matches, before Flowers, playing No. 2 singles, clinched in the final match on the court.
"It was intense to the end," XU coach Alan Green said. "There were so many momentum swings I felt like I was on a roller coaster minus the fun. This was a mentally draining match for us that fortunately ended well.
"Brion Flowers came through in the clutch, but all the girls contributed to this one. We couldn't have done it without that great start in doubles."
Sisters Carmen and Brandi Nelson defeated Diaz and Anna Rudolfova 8-2 at No. 2 doubles for the first XU point. Flowers and Kourtney Howell, third-ranked in the preseason by the ITA, beat eighth-ranked Jade Curtis and Chanel Cunningham 8-6. Simone-Alyse Ewell and Amber Brown completed the doubles sweep when they defeated Celine Lenertz and Bright Phakamad 8-6.
Brown produced the Nuggets' other singles victory, 6-1, 6-2 against Maria Fernanda Vargas at No. 6. Brandi Nelson and Ewell lost three-set singles matches.
The Nuggets were 3-0 in the AUM Invitational and improved their win streak to four duals. They have four victories this season against ranked NAIA opponents, three against top-5 teams.
In the men's dual, the Gold Rush (4-6) got victories at No. 1 doubles when Kyle Montrel and Nikita Soifer defeated Francisco Mendieta and and Zinelabidine Jouini 8-3 and at No. 5 singles when freshman Jordan Harrell rallied to beat Mendieta 3-6, 7-5, 1-0 (10-4).
The Gold Rush were 2-1 in the AUM Invitational with victories against Coastal Georgia and Cumberland, both in the top 25.
AUM's women are 8-3, and the men are 11-1. Both AUM teams will visit the Nuggets and the Rush on April 5.
Next for the Gold Nuggets will be a 2 p.m. Wednesday dual against NCAA Division I's Oral Roberts at the XU Tennis Center. The Gold Rush will travel to another NCAA DI opponent, Troy, for a dual at 1 p.m. Saturday.