Roadrunners capture Southland title
UTSA becomes lowest seed to win conference tournament
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -- Sophomore Yannick Junger had a hand in picking up two points for fourth-seeded UTSA, including the clinching singles victory, and the Roadrunners knocked off No. 2 seed Nicholls 4-2 for the Southland Conference Tournament championship on Saturday.
UTSA (13-10) became the lowest seed to win the league's tournament title and it earned the program's third berth in the NCAA Championships (2002, '10).
"I'm incredibly excited for the guys," second-year head coach Jeff Kader said. "We set goals at the beginning of the season and one of those was to win this tournament. Our guys stepped up big today. A lot of credit goes to Nicholls because they really fought hard all day. There definitely is a sense of relief because it was a back-and-forth match that had a roller coaster of emotions. I'm very happy for our guys that they were able to come out on top today.
Junger and senior Pedro Zanotelli got the Roadrunners off to a quick start by posting an 8-5 victory at No. 1 doubles, which was their seventh win in a row. The Birds then clinched the opening point after juniors Martin Ayala and Tyler Brown netted an 8-5 triumph at the second spot.
However, Nicholls (10-10) tied the match when freshman David Kelleher was forced to retire at No. 5 singles. UTSA's winningest singles player this spring (16 victories), Kelleher saw his eight-match winning streak come to an end in his first defeat since March 18.
"The doubles points was huge, especially after David was unable to finish his singles match," Kader said. "He has only lost a few matches for us the entire year and to see him go down was a little nerve racking. Our guys really stepped up at big times in the match."
Ayala then finished off a straight-sets victory (6-2, 6-4) against Shayann Vaezzadeh at the third spot to give UTSA the lead for good.
The Roadrunners extended their advantage to 3-1 after senior Daniel Moser rallied from a one-set deficit at the sixth position. Moser dropped the opening stanza 6-2, but he did not surrender a game the rest of the way.
The Colonels earned their final point at No. 2 singles when Dmitry Kozionov swept Brown by identical scores of 6-3.
That set the stage for Junger's clincher. The Stuttgart, Germany, native fought his way to a 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) victory against Damjan Despotovski at the top spot to continue UTSA's postseason.
The victory avenged the Birds' 4-3 setback to Nicholls in the conference opener back on Feb. 19.