Barry squeaks past Armstrong Atlantic in final match of NCAA championship
SURPRISE, Ariz. — It took nearly five hours, but top-ranked Barry beat No. 2 Armstrong 5-4 to win the 2013 NCAA Division II Men’s Tennis Championship.
Under warm, sunny conditions at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, the Buccaneers (29-0) won their second Division II title and secured the program’s first undefeated season.
Defending champion Armstrong (27-2) was aiming for a fourth title in six years, but fell one singles match shy. It was the Pirates’ first loss in a national championship match while Barry improved to 2-5 in title tilts. The Bucs won the 2010 Division II title.
Barry had beaten Armstrong 5-4 earlier this season on March 26 in Miami, Fla.
“I think it’s huge,” Barry head coach George Samuel said. “There’s nobody more deserving than this team and even [head coach] Simon [Earnshaw] from Armstrong said, ‘you guys really deserve it,’ as much as they almost took the match. It’s huge for Barry University. They’ve been behind us for years now supporting our efforts and so forth. There’s nothing more that we’re rather do that to give back to their support.”
Barry’s Leo Vivas, a junior from Caracas, Venezuela, clinched the match at No. 5 singles, defeating Armstrong’s Pedro Scocuglia 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.
The first team with five victories wins the match and Saturday’s national championship literally came down to the last points off Vivas’ and Scocuglia’s racquets.
Down 4-0 in the third set after splitting the first two, Vivas battled back to a 4-4 tie. Scocuglia held for a 5-4 lead, but Vivas wouldn’t go down, tying the score at five.
From there, he seemed to bulldoze, winning eight consecutive points to nail the match.
“He needed a little extra help and I think the whole team gave it to him and all the coaches did,” Samuel said. “But he’s the one who pulled it out, not us.”
“There’s no holding back,” Vivas said of his attitude. “This is it — this last match. We’re one for the season, for the year. It’s one chance. If you have the potential there, just take it.”
Nicknamed El Presidente — “I like to manage people around,” Vivas said — he was mobbed by screaming teammates as the match concluded.
“I was a little surprised that we didn’t do so well in the singles and it really started looking grim,” Samuel said. “If it wasn’t for Leo Vivas, the match would’ve been decided by Armstong. But he gutted it out.
And if there’s one person who worked harder than the rest, it’s Leo. He really stepped up. He was a leader and I think he’ll always remember this and so will the team for bringing this about.”
Armstrong beat Barry in the 2009 national title match on the strength of a third-set victory at No. 5 singles.
Early on, the final match looked like a possible steamroll. Barry won all three doubles matches. Both No. 1 and No. 2 doubles went to tiebreakers; at No. 2, Armstrong’s Sven Lalic and Scocuglia had four match-point opportunities, but Barry’s Ollie Lemaitre and Max Wimmer won the tiebreaker 8-6.
“It was a little bit rocky, but what saved us was our doubles,” Samuel said. “For so long, all we’ve done is work on doubles for practice because we knew those were important points that you could really get the lead in.”
Buoyed by that 3-0 lead, Barry held a mental edge as singles matches began. Armstrong, meanwhile, was faced with winning five singles.
It almost happened.
The Pirates won the first set in five of the singles matches. Dan Regan notched Armstrong’s first point by beating Fabian Groetsch (6-2, 6-4) at No. 3 singles. Barry’s Romain Costamagna beat Lalic 6,2, 6-4 at No. 4 to take a 4-1 lead.
One by one, other matches ended— Armstrong’s Matus Mydla beat Barry’s Marko Mokrzycki 7-6 (2), 6-1 at No. 1 singles. The nation’s top-ranked men’s player, Armstrong’s Georgi Rumenov, beat Barry’s Max Wimmer 7-6 (6), 6-2 at No. 2 singles.
Armstrong’s Pablo Gor beat Lemaitre 6-3-6-4, at No. 4, tying the overall score at four. Slugging it out with Scocuglia at No. 5, Vivas realized the situation.
“When I saw Marko come into my court, my adrenaline started kicking a little bit more because I was down 3-0 when he came,” Vivas said. “I saw everyone — ‘you can do this, you can do this.’ I knew I could do it and still be tired, but everything started working in my favor and it turned out in my favor.”
Mokrzycki, one of two Barry seniors along with Wimmer, added an important footnote Saturday. His and Groetsch’s No. 1 doubles victory boosted Mokrzycki into first place on Barry’s career list; he ends with a 79-30 doubles record.
But no Barry player seemed concerned about anything except the team score.
“I didn’t win the match,” Vivas said. “The university did.”