May 17, 2012
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MOBILE, Ala. – Azusa Pacific (Calif.) head coach Mark Bohren has tasted the joy of victory many times in his career, but Thursday’s quarterfinal win over fifth-seeded Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) felt particularly sweet. Bohren reached 600 victories (combined men and women) in his coaching career and tagged a long-time nemesis in the process of advancing to the semifinals of the 2012 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championships.
“For the last 16 years we’ve been battling with AUM, so it’s always a close match,” Bohren said. “Usually we’ve been on the losing end, so it’s nice to be on the winning end today.”
The classic 5-4 decision was clinched for the fourth-seeded Cougars at No. 4 singles where Benedict Eger edged out the Warhawks’ Marlu Jansen Van Vuuren, 7-5, 6-3, giving Azusa Pacific a split in singles play. The Cougars had gained the upper hand in doubles with decisive 8-3 and 8-1 wins at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles, respectively, making Bohren a winner for the 600th time.
The win sets up an all-Golden State Athletic Conference semifinal at the top half of the bracket as Azusa Pacific moves on to play top-seeded Fresno Pacific (Calif.) on Friday. The Sunbirds, just as they did in the second round, won 5-0 in the quarterfinals, meaning they will play a GSAC rival for the second-straight match.
“It’s going to be a good match,” Bohren said. “They’re obviously the defending national champions so we’re going to have our work cut out for us. Our guys have a good attitude about the match tomorrow and I think we have some good momentum. We’re physically ready to play so it should be a lot of fun.”
Westmont (Calif.) needed more than four hours to finish off William Carey (Miss.) in the second round on Wednesday, and despite having a bye in the first round, the eighth-seeded Warriors appeared to be running on less fuel than high-powered Fresno Pacific.
“We knew Westmont had a long one yesterday, so we came out a little more fired up,” Sunbird head coach Neil Castro said. “We wanted to get on them early and see how they would react. They competed hard throughout, I just think we had a little more in the tank than they did.”
Fresno Pacific had little trouble at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles and Nos. 1 and 3 singles, with the only close match coming at No. 2 doubles where the Sunbird duo of Kirill Sinitsyn and Nathan Martinet prevailed 9-7.
At the bottom half of the bracket, second-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) continued its impressive march with a 5-1 win over a Xavier (La.) team used to playing top non-conference competition. However, the Eagles overpowered the Gold Rush with stellar play at Nos. 3 and 5 singles and a three-set (4-6, 6-1, 6-1) victory at No. 4 singles.
Despite the late scratch of Patrick Besch at No. 2 singles, Embry-Riddle mowed down seventh-seeded Xavier.
“First off, hats off to Xavier,” Embry-Riddle head coach Dave Paschal said. “That’s a very good team. They played exceptionally well in doubles, and we were very fortunate to come out 2-1 in doubles. We were down a break twice at one doubles and came back and won it.
“I think both teams faced a little adversity. We had to pull out one of our top guys, our No. 2 guy because of illness. And they had to do the same with their No. 4. Other guys got to step up, but it’s a good win today – definitely had to fight to earn that. The 5-1 isn’t indicative of how close of a score it was.”
No. 3 Oklahoma Christian was the first to punch its ticket to the semifinals, making quick work of sixth-seeded Vanguard (Calif.), 5-0. The most competitive match took place at No. 3 doubles, where the Eagles triumphed 8-5.
Friday’s Embry-Riddle-Oklahoma Christian match will feature the Nos. 1 and 2-ranked singles players in the NAIA (according to the ITA) when top-ranked Bruno Tiberti of Oklahoma Christian challenges No. 2 Chris Freeman of Embry-Riddle. The two stars split a pair of matches during the regular season.
The semifinal matches both begin at 1 p.m. CDT at Mobile Tennis Center on Friday.