NCAA Men's Tennis: No. 1 Cougars to Play For Second Straight National Championship

NCAA Men's Tennis: No. 1 Cougars to Play For Second Straight National Championship

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – The rematch is set. The top-ranked Columbus State University men's tennis team will have a chance to defend its national championship as the Cougars defeated third-ranked Hawaii Pacific 4-1 to advance to the NCAA Division II national championship match. The semifinals took place at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

The Cougars will once again meet second-ranked Barry in the title match. Last season, CSU won a thrilling 5-4 decision over the Buccaneers to capture the program's first national championship.

"We are finding a way and that's all that matters," said head coach Evan Isaacs. "To be able to say you played in back-to-back national championships is a great accomplishment for these guys. We are going to have to dig deep down inside ourselves tomorrow and take it to another level to beat Barry."

Columbus State (28-2) grabbed the much needed doubles point to get things started. The top-ranked duo of Alvaro Regalado and Zach Whaanga won first doubles over 17th-ranked Valentin Masse and Maxime Gayte 6-2 for the first result of the afternoon. Hawaii Pacific did even things up after Matei Avram and Fabien Asdrubal fell 6-2 at the third position. However teaming up for the first time in the postseason, Arnold Kokulewski and Tommaso Schold won the swing match 6-2 giving the Cougars the 1-0 advantage. 

Singles play was tight throughout all six matches. Hawaii Pacific (18-5) tied things taking sixth singles as Schold fell 6-2, 6-3, but things didn't stay that way for long. At the fourth position, 54th-ranked Kokulewski edged 39th-ranked Maxime Gayete 6-1, 7-5 while 66th-ranked Asdrubal was also victorious at the second singles 6-3, 6-1 to give CSU a 3-1 lead.

Looking for the match winner, the Cougars found it at third singles where 25th-ranked Regalado made a furious comeback in both sets for the walk-off win. After taking the first set 6-4, Regalado found himself down a game in the second, but battled back to force the tiebreak. The sophomore won the tiebreaker 7-5 to clinch a 6-4, 7-6 match win.

In the unfinished matches, 34th-ranked Whaanga and 21st-ranked Masse were in a three-set thriller at first singles while 67th-ranked Avram was tied up in the third set at the fifth spot.

Columbus State and Barry will meet in the national championship Friday at 1 p.m.