Georgia Gwinnett Wins First NAIA Men's Tennis National Championship
By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern
MOBILE, Ala. — (Results | Bracket) Less than four hours after the Georgia Gwinnett women’s tennis team won the school’s first-ever national title, the men’s team added to the Grizzlies’ trophy case, besting the Eagles of Embry-Riddle (Fla.), 5-1, in the 2014 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship final on Saturday, May 17.
The defending national champion and No. 1-seeded Eagles earned the first point of the match at No. 1 doubles, when the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 1 tandem of Deni Zmak and Simon Felix defeated Luke Morland and Nathan De Veer, 8-2. The No. 3-seeded Grizzlies picked up wins from Bruno Tiberti and Mark Verryth at No. 2 (8-3) and Connor Clements and Matias Hatem at No. 3 (8-2) to head to singles play up 2-1.
In singles, Georgia Gwinnett earned first-set wins across the board, with the most laborious being Morland’s 7-6 win at No. 6. Clements made quick work of Embry-Riddle’s Luke de Caires at No. 5 (6-2, 6-0) to push the Grizzlies lead to 3-1, before teammate Matias Hatem closed out Patrick Besch at No. 3 (6-1, 6-4) to put Georgia Gwinnett one win away from the national title, 4-1.
With Zmak and Felix battling back to force third sets at No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, No. 2 singles became the match to watch for a straight-sets Georgia Gwinnett victory. Tiberti—who clinched the 2012 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship for former member Oklahoma Christian with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 1 singles—outlasted Jaime Sanchez-Canamares Rios of Embry-Riddle at No. 2 (6-1, 7-5) to clinch the 2014 national championship for Georgia Gwinnett.
With the win, Georgia Gwinnett finishes the season 21-0 and holds a perfect 4-0 mark in the national championship. The Grizzlies now own two national titles in just their first year of eligibility for NAIA postseason. The loss is the first in NAIA play this season for Embry-Riddle, which ends its year 21-4 and holds a 30-14 record all-time in the national championship.
Georgia Gwinnett is the first program since Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) in 2008 to capture both the men’s and women’s tennis national championships in the same season. The Warhawks have accomplished the feat in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. No other program has won both national titles in the same year.