NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! Cougars Claim First National Title
SURPRISE, Ariz. – The second-ranked Columbus State University men's tennis team claimed the program's first national championship on Saturday, defeating top-ranked Barry 5-4.
The national championship is the eighth team NCAA title won in Columbus State athletic history, and the first since the baseball program captured the 2002 championship.
"This group of guys is special," head coach Evan Isaacs said. "We had a great fall season and knew that we had a chance to be in this position, but to be here holding up this trophy is a surreal feeling and something all of us are never going to forget."
Saturday's national championship was a back-and-forth affair between the top two teams in the country, and was tight from the opening serve.
Alvaro Regalado and Zach Whaanga set a strong tone to start the day, dominating first doubles for an 8-3 victory.
Barry (25-3) evened the match up at one apiece with an 8-6 win at second doubles, but Jorge Vargas and Arnold Kokulewski scored a huge 9-7 victory in the swing match at third to give the Cougars a 2-1 advantage heading into singles.
Singles play didn't get off to a great start for Columbus State (28-3), as only Avram and Kokulewski claimed first set wins. However, Avram fell 6-4, 2-6, 0-6 to make it a 2-2 contest. The Bucs then quickly took down Vargas 4-6, 6-7 at fifth singles as well to seesaw in front for the first time on the day.
The Cougars responded right back though, with Kokulewski pulling out a 7-6, 6-4 win in the sixth position to send it back to even at three.
With the match down to a best of three, each of the top three singles matches went into the third set. The Cougars lost the opening set in each contest before rallying back to force the third.
Second singles was the first to drop, with Whaanga suffering a 4-6, 6-4, 2-6 loss to put the Cougars on the verge of defeat.
The match then fell into the hands of Pannu, the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year, and Regalado, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Rookie of the Year.
Regalado steamrolled through the final set for a 6-7, 6-2, 6-1 win the tied the match at four, and Pannu gave the Cougars a national championship just moments later, winning by the exact same score.
Columbus State's banner year closed out with 16 consecutive victories, the program's second consecutive sweep of the PBC regular season and tournament championships, and the Cougars' first national championship.
1. #2 KP Pannu (CSU-M) def. #8 Pierre Montrieul (BARRY-M) 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 6-1
2. #16 Carlos Gomez (BARRY-M) def. #22 Zach Whaanga (CSU-M) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
3. #67 Alvaro Regalado (CSU-M) def. #52 Vivien Versier (BARRY-M) 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 6-1
4. #47 Daniel Ventura (BARRY-M) def. Matei Avram (CSU-M) 4-6, 6-2, 6-0
5. Blake Bayldon (BARRY-M) def. #72 Jorge Vargas (CSU-M) 6-4, 7-6 (7-5)
6. Arnold Kokulewski (CSU-M) def. Flavio Matteoli (BARRY-M) 7-6 (7-5), 6-4
1. #3 Alvaro Regalado/Zach Whaanga (CSU-M) def. Fernando Tous/Filip Zupancic (BARRY-M) 8-3
2. Pierre Montrieul/Blake Bayldon (BARRY-M) def. KP Pannu/Matei Avram (CSU-M) 8-6
3. Jorge Vargas/Arnold Kokulewski (CSU-M) def. Carlos Gomez/Vivien Versier (BARRY-M) 9-7