JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (April 20, 2014) – The ETSU men’s tennis team concluded its tenure in the Atlantic Sun Conference in familiar fashion: with a tournament title. The top-seeded Buccaneers overcame No. 2 UNF, 4-0, on the Ospreys’ home court Sunday afternoon, clinching ETSU’s eighth consecutive A-Sun tournament championship.
ETSU’s final Atlantic Sun match in program history—the Bucs will rejoin the Southern Conference next season—saw the league’s two nationally-ranked squads go toe-to-toe in the tournament final for the third straight season. And for the third straight season, the Bucs (14-8) prevailed.
“It’s going to be sad to leave a conference where we’ve seen such growth,” ETSU head coach Yaser Zaatini said. “However, if we had to pick a way to leave, we could not have written the script any better.”
Faced with the difficult task of dispatching the Ospreys (14-10) on their home court at the UNF Tennis Complex, the freshmen-laden Bucs met the challenge with fearless resolve, beginning the day by winning the doubles point to take an early 1-0 lead.
After UNF won at the No. 1 doubles spot, the Bucs responded by notching victories at No. 3 and No. 2 doubles, respectively.
Sophomore Sebastian Yllera (Cinco Saltos, Argentina) and freshman Conner Huertas (Lima, Peru) took down the Ospreys’ Bernard Craveiro and Pablo Tellez, 8-3 at the No. 3 position, before senior Roger Ordeig (Gurb, Spain) and freshman David Biosca (Sant Fruitos De Bage, Spain) teamed up to win, 8-6, at the No. 2 spot.
Spurred by the doubles wins, ETSU came out strongly in singles competition, with freshman Ismael Merino (Lima, Peru) handily beating Craveiro at No. 4 singles, 6-0, 6-1.
Fellow freshman Diego Nunez (Monterrey, Mexico) followed suit at No. 2, defeating Norbert Nemcsek, 6-4, 6-3, to put the Bucs ahead in the match, 3-0, and just a single point away from continuing their streak of tournament titles.
Ahead, 6-4, 5-2, at No. 5 singles, it appeared that Huertas would be the player to put the finishing touches on ETSU’s eighth straight tournament championship; however, a steadfast comeback by Zachary Goldberg saw the second set to a six-games-apiece deadlock.
Instead, fittingly, the Bucs’ lone senior, Ordeig, won the match-clinching point, holding off Pablo Tellez at No. 6 singles, 6-0, 7-5, to help ETSU secure its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance.
“To have Roger [Ordeig] clinch the win and put his stamp on this tournament is glorious,” Zaatini said.
Following the match, Biosca, Nunez, and Merino were each named to the Atlantic Sun Men’s Tennis Championship All-Tournament Team, with Merino taking home Tournament MVP honors.
During its nine seasons in the Atlantic Sun, ETSU captured eight tournament championships and seven regular season titles.
“We began A-Sun play with a regular season win in 2006, and to go out as tournament champions eight years later is quite impressive,” Zaatini said. “To have several generations be a part of putting this run together—a dynasty that will forever live in the history books of the A-Sun—is unexplainable.”
Sunday’s victory extended the Bucs’ season-best win streak to 11 matches. ETSU has not suffered a setback since Feb. 23—a span of 57 days—making it the longest win streak since the Bucs won 18 straight matches in 2008 (84 days) en route to advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
ETSU has earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament 11 times in the last 13 years. In 2008, the Bucs knocked off No. 26 Notre Dame, 4-2. Two years later, ETSU defeated No. 32 Alabama, 4-2.
Shortly after the Bucs’ clinched their eighth consecutive A-Sun tournament title, the ETSU women’s tennis team joined the celebration, winning the Atlantic Sun Women’s Championship title.
“As a director, nothing makes me prouder,” Zaatini said. “Ricky [Rojas] and Travis [Sandlant] both don’t get enough credit. Without them, this program would not be nearly as successful as it is.”
Rojas, Zaatini’s assistant on the men’s squad, and Sandlant, the coach of the women’s team, have had a hand in virtually all of the two programs’ championship seasons in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Both coaches enjoyed successful playing careers at ETSU, with Sandlant playing a key role in the Bucs’ first A-Sun title in 2007, and Rojas helping ETSU to the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win in 2008.
Details for both the men’s and women’s teams regarding the upcoming NCAA Tournament will be released on ETSUBucs.com as information becomes available.
#65 ETSU 4, #68 North Florida 0
1. Caio Gomes (UNF) vs. David Biosca (ETSU) 3-6, 5-6, unfinished
2. Diego Nunez (ETSU) def. Norbert Nemcsek (UNF) 6-4, 6-3
3. Yannick Zuern (UNF) vs. Sebastian Yllera (ETSU) 6-3, 2-6, 3-1, unfinished
4. Ismael Merino (ETSU) def. Bernard Craveiro (UNF) 6-0, 6-1
5. Zachary Goldberg (UNF) vs. Conner Huertas (ETSU) 4-6, 6-6, unfinished
6. Roger Ordeig (ETSU) def. Pablo Tellez (UNF) 6-0, 7-5
1. Yannick Zuern/Caio Gomes (UNF) def. Diego Nunez/Ismael Merino (ETSU) 8-3
2. Roger Ordeig/David Biosca (ETSU) def. Norbert Nemcsek/Zachary Goldberg (UNF) 8-6
3. Sebastian Yllera/Conner Huertas (ETSU) def. Bernard Craveiro/Pablo Tellez (UNF) 8-3
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