By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern
MOBILE, Ala. — (Results | Bracket) For the 11th-straight year, the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals of the NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship. Defending national champion and top-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) headlines the semifinalists after sweeping a competitive unranked Xavier (La.) squad, 5-0.
The Eagles secured a decisive victory from Patrick Besch and Jaime Sanchez-Canamares Rios at No. 2 doubles (8-4), but had to earn their 3-0 lead heading into singles with hard-fought wins at No. 1 (9-8) and No. 3 (9-7). In singles play, Simon Felix and Miguel Lopez Gomez secured 6-0, 6-0 wins at No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, to keep the Eagles’ national title defense alive. Embry-Riddle is looking to become the first back-to-back national champion since Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) won three-straight titles from 2006-2008.
In arguably the most competitive match of the quarterfinals, No. 4 Vanguard (Calif.) held off No. 5 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) to advance to its second-straight semifinals. The Lions grabbed an early lead, 3-1, with wins at No. 1 (8-6) and No. 3 (8-2) doubles and No. 3 singles (7-6, 6-3). But, the Blue Raiders battled back, earning victories at No. 2, No. 5 and No. 6 singles—including two that required three sets—to take their first lead of the match 4-3. Daymon Johnson pulled the Lions back even, 4-4, winning a three-set thriller at No. 4 over Lindsey Wilson’s Francisco Charters (6-2, 1-6, 7-5).
That left the match up to each team’s No. 1 singles player. While locked in a third set battle after splitting sets, Lindsey Wilson’s Edberg Espinosa was forced to concede due to injury with Vanguard’s Stefan Kilchhofer leading the decisive third set, 5-4. The concession gave Vanguard a 5-4 victory, sending the Lions back to the semifinals chasing their first-ever national championship.
Newcomer No. 3 Georgia Gwinnett continued to prove deserving of a top four seed, vanquishing No. 6 Cumberland (Tenn.), 5-2. The Grizzlies earned their requisite five wins at No. 1 (8-4) and No. 3 (8-2) doubles and No. 2 (6-2, 6-1), No. 3 (6-1, 6-0) and No. 6 (6-0, 6-1) singles, while Cumberland won points at No. 2 doubles (8-2) and No. 4 singles (6-4, 6-2). Georgia Gwinnett is searching for its first-ever national title in its first-ever national championship appearance.
No. 2 Auburn Montgomery clinched the final spot in the semifinals with a 5-2 victory over unranked Bethany (Kan.). The Warhawks fell behind, 2-1, in doubles play, winning 8-0 at No. 3 for their lone doubles point. In singles, Auburn Montgomery fared better, sweeping Nos. 3-6 to advance to the semifinals in pursuit of its 10th all-time national title.
All four teams enter Friday’s semifinals undefeated in NAIA play this season.
No. 1 Embry-Riddle will meet No. 4 Vanguard in semifinal action, beginning at 1 p.m. CDT Friday, while No. 2 Auburn Montgomery will face No. 3 Georgia Gwinnett in the other matchup.
NeuLion, the official video streaming company of select NAIA National Championship events, will be broadcasting the national championship match from Mobile on Saturday, May 17. For more information on the free live video stream and to pre-register, click here.