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Menís Tennis National Championships Recap Ė Round Two

May 16, 2012
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By Jake Knabel, NAIA Communications & Sports Information Intern

MOBILE, Ala. – Stiff competition during the regular season often bodes well in the postseason for national title hopefuls. This proved true for seventh-seeded Xavier (La.), which sailed smoothly to a 5-0 victory over a familiar foe in 10th-seeded Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) on Wednesday. The Gold Rush are one of eight teams remaining after the field was trimmed in the second round at the 2012 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championships.

Xavier, which narrowly defeated Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) by a 5-4 score earlier in the season, found the going much easier this time around. The battle-tested Gold Rush, who played six top-10 teams before entering the postseason, all but decided the match in doubles play. The doubles sweep, led by an 8-4 win from No. 1 doubles pair Loic Didavi and Zach Taylor, pushed Xavier to the quarterfinals.

“Today we came out with a lot of intensity,” Xavier head coach Alan Green said. “We played the same team during the regular season and it was a very close match. We knew it was going to be another battle today, so we just wanted to come out and set the tone with our intensity, and really just play well.

“We didn’t let the heat bother us. We like playing in this type of heat.”

The most thrilling match of the day was played between eighth-seeded Westmont (Calif.) and No. 9 William Carey (Miss.). The marathon duel lasted well over four hours and saw the Crusaders fight back from a 3-0 deficit at the conclusion of doubles play, before ultimately falling, 5-4.

The match came down to No. 3 singles where Rodrigo Schaefer of Westmont ousted Thomas Rizk (3-6, 7-6, 9-8) by winning the tiebreaker in the third set. Schaefer’s clutch performance prevented the Warriors from collapsing in singles play.

“I'm thrilled how we played in doubles – so aggressively and confidently,” Westmont head coach Mark Basham said. “I told the guys that doubles would set the tone for the match. I didn't think William Carey would be as feisty and good as they were in the singles.”

Westmont’s nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat triumph sets up a quarterfinal date with fellow Golden State Athletic Conference foe Fresno Pacific (Calif.). The Sunbirds breezed to a 5-0 victory over 16th-seeded Cumberland (Tenn.) on Wednesday by wiping the floor in doubles and by making quick work of the Bulldogs at No. 5 and 6 singles.

No. 2 Embry-Riddle (Fla.), No. 3 Oklahoma Christian, No. 4 Azusa Pacific (Calif.) and No. 5 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) followed suit with similarly impressive performances. Embry-Riddle, Oklahoma Christian and Azusa Pacific each won 5-0, while Auburn Montgomery surrendered only No. 1 doubles in a 5-1 triumph.

Embry-Riddle’s Chris Freeman, the 2011 Ward-Ballinger Outstanding Player at the National Championships, continued his fine work on the big stage. He appeared on his way to a victory at No. 1 singles (6-3, 2-1 unfinished) as the Eagles wrapped up play with wins at Nos. 2 and 4 singles.

“I think the guys played really well today,” Embry-Riddle head coach Dave Paschal said. “We hadn’t played a match for almost a month. I was very happy with how we came out and got on top of them really early in doubles. But we played exceptionally well in singles. It was a very good start to our tournament.”

The Eagles move on to play Xavier in the quarterfinals, while another GSAC squad, sixth-seeded Vanguard (Calif.), also advances after a hotly-contested 5-3 win over upset-minded and 11th-seeded Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). The Lions draw Oklahoma Christian on Thursday when men’s championship action resumes at 1 p.m. CDT.