May 11, 2010

By Michael Wilson
Special to

Playing Favorites

The Round of 16 is set and several familiar names will be competing for the NCAA DII Tennis title. Top- ranked Valdosta State University and second-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University both advanced, keeping alive the hopes of seeing a 1 vs. 2 matchup. The Blazers survived the loaded South Regional bracket first sweeping Gulf South Conference foe West Alabama then handling fifth-ranked Lynn, 5-1. While Lynn's season ended early for the top-five fixture, the team got its money worth out of the day two showdown with No. 7 Rollins, winning in a thrilling 5-4 bout before going on to lose in the region final.

On the other side of the bracket, the Pirates stood tallest in the Southeast regional tournament amid a dogfight of top-35 teams, as AASU downed No. 24 Lees-McRae 5-0 before going on to win the region for the sixth straight season taking out No. 15 Francis Marion, 5-0.

AASU is out for its third consecutive national championships and looks to get back to the title match having won 90 of its last 92 matches heading into the NCAA tournament.

No Room for Doubt

The fourth-ranked Barry Buccaneers left no room to question their position in the NCAA tournament as they dominated one of the nation's toughest regional brackets to advance. The Buccaneers handled ninth-ranked West Florida in the second day of regional play, 5-0. The team then shocked the Ouachita Baptist Tigers sweeping them and avenging its regular season loss while defending its home court. The Tigers were shell shocked dropping three doubles matches, 8-3, 8-4, and 8-3. Barry closed out winning the first two singles matches in straight sets to shut out the third-ranked Tigers.

After losing three straight games during the regular season Barry left little reason to doubt their place in the round of 16 sweeping two top-10 teams to start the tournament. Look for the Buccaneers to make waves in the final rounds as they are on a collision course with second-ranked AASU, the team that dealt the Bucs their first loss of the season on March 13.

The Queens Court

The top teams from the East region advanced to the NCAA tournament from the courts of Queens, New York with hopes of ascending to DII tennis royalty. No. 40 Queens College protected its home court punishing Dowling, 5-1, and Bentley, 5-2. The regional wins sends the Knights back to the round of 16 as the team will face the tournament favorite in VSU. In the other East region bracket 11-ranked Concordia advanced as it swept through their bracket handily beating Adelphi and Philadelphia, 5-0.

How Hawaii Won the West

Hawaii Pacific and BYU-Hawaii won the West regional brackets after one day of competition. The sixth-ranked Hawaii Pacific Sea Warriors led the West region all season and hosted the first bracket of the tournament. The Sea Warriors swept Sonoma St. in a rematch of the regular season match up that featured a similar result, 6-1. In the second West region bracket the 29-ranked BYU-Hawaii Seasiders routed 30-ranked U.C. San Diego, 5-1. It was the third meeting between the two teams this season with the Seasiders coming out on top all three times.

A Midwest State of Mind

The Midwest brackets rounded out in the expected fashion as host teams No. 17 Drury and No. 23 Northwood handled their business and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Drury advanced to the final match easily with a sweep of Michigan Tech, but needed a rally to get past 37-ranked Rockhurst. Drury fell to 1-2 in doubles play and, then went 4-1 in singles play with four straight set victories to win the match 5-3. In the rest of the Midwest, Northwood struggled to earn their spot in the NCAA tournament beating Southern Indiana 5-4 after the match tied up at 4-4. In the final game of the match Northwood's Max Dutios beat Southern Indiana's Robert Nieters in three sets. The win lifted Northwood past the Screaming Eagles and into the tournament.

Thrills in South Central

Abilene Christian and St. Edwards inched past the regional competition to make it the NCAA Tournament and claim the regional titles. St. Edwards, the 16-ranked team and region host, went back and forth with Northwest Missouri State in a match that saw two ties and a player that won despite heat exhaustion. The Hilltoppers lost a 3-1 lead early to end up 4-4 going into the final game where Senior Bernard Lancaster over came heat exhaustion and cramps to win in three sets and give his team the 5-4 win and a tournament berth.

The action in the other South Central bracket was no less shocking as Abilene Christian slipped past Incarnate Word to earn its fourth straight berth to the NCAA tournament. No. 20 Incarnate Word stunned 19-ranked the Wildcats taking a 4-1 lead with wins in the first two singles games and 2-1 doubles mark. The Wildcats would not go quietly into the night though roaring back to take the last four singles matches. The Wildcats could smell defeat as Luke Hawk had his back against the wall in the third set against Alex Wieland as the two battled into extra points for the match. Hawk prevailed and his teammates rallied to win the match 5-4 and claim the regional title again. The Wildcats have dominated the South Central region winning seven times since 2001.