April 15, 2010

By Michael Wilson
Special to NCAA.com

Matchup Of The Week

The second-ranked Valdosta State Blazers took down the top-ranked Armstrong Atlantic Pirates in the showdown of Division II's top two teams on April 10.

The Blazers held serve on their home court thanks to stellar doubles play from some of the nation's top tennis players. The Blazers beat the Pirates with a sweep in doubles play and rigid competition down the stretch leading to a 5-4 victory over the last undefeated team in the country.

The Blazers jumped out to an early lead when their top doubles team in eighth-ranked pair Philip Pakebusch and Michael Kuech clinched an 8-6 upset over the top-ranked Rafael Array and Mikk Irdoja. The Blazer's No. 19 twosome Daniel Dueren and Christian Hansen won in a nail-biter, coming from behind to beat the Pirates' Matus Mydla and Daniel Regan, 9-8 (10-6). VSU completed their doubles sweep with Otto Lenhart and Frank Sickman's 8-6 win over AASU's Eudaldo Bonet and Paul Fitzgerald in the final doubles match.

The Blazers took their commanding lead into singles play against the most dangerous singles team in the country, but managed to hold on for the win with a 2-4 singles mark. AASU's 37th-ranked Mydla took the Pirate's first point of the day beating Lenhart in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

Irdoja, the sixth-ranked singles player in the country, beat second-ranked Dueren in a much-awaited match up, winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. The Blazers' No. 1 singles player third-ranked Pakebusch earned the Blazers' their fourth point taking down No. 11 Bonet in similar fashion 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. The Blazers clinched the win with 25th-ranked Hansen's 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 upset win over No. 7 Array in the third singles position.

The Blazers handed the Pirates their first loss of the season, their first loss since Feb. 24, 2009, ending a 46-game win streak. The Blazers are now 15-1 on the season while the Pirates mildly fall to a 23-1 record. The match up may very well be a prelude to a championship as both teams appear to be the favorites for the NCAA finals with the season coming to a close.

Closing Strong

The regular season is easing to its close with several teams finishing off a season of progress or disappoint and eyeing glory in the post season tournaments.

Fourth-ranked Ouachita Baptist University wrapped up the season with a convincing road win over Harding University 7-2. The Tigers finished the season with a hard-fought 16-1 record suffering their only loss to conference rival and second-ranked VSU. The Tiger picked up key wins against No. 5 Barry, No. 8 Rollins, and No.9 West Florida while moving up to number four in the latest ITA polls.

No. 6 Hawaii-Pacific finished off a 21-3 record by winning eight straight matches including victories over two Division I opponents; Utah State and University of Idaho. The Sea Warriors lost back-to-back matches against No. 1 AASU and No. 5 Barry in mid-March ending an 11-match win streak before the team went on its season closing run.

Back on Track

The 29-ranked BYU-Hawaii Seasiders closed out an East coast road trip and one final match at home against Rose-Hulman to tally an 18-4 record on the season. The Seasiders went into the extended east coast road trip with an 11-1 record and 10-match winning streak, but found little southern hospitality dropping two of four to start. BYU-Hawaii eventually righted the ship to finish the road trip (7-2) and the season strongly.

No. 5 Barry also found closure to a streaky season and managed to correct the mid-season tailspin to finish 16-4 after a 13-1 start. Barry started the spring as the second-ranked overall team, but suffered a devastating stretch where the Buccaneers couldn't tell which way was up. They lost three consecutive matches; the first to NAIA No. 2 Auburn-Montgomery 3-6, then No. 4 OBU 4-5, and finally to No. 3 Lynn 2-7. The rocky seas settled when the Buccaneers recorded back-to-back 7-2 triumphs against St. Thomas and Palm Beach Atlantic. They finished their season as the second overall team in the Peach Belt Conference behind Lynn.

The Ferris State Bulldogs lost their bite as well as their bark halfway through the regular season losing five straight and free-falling to a disappointing 3-5. The country's 38-ranked team got is voice back against conference opponent Lake Superior State in a much needed 6-3 match, and never looked back going 7-1 to close the season with the only loss coming to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season champ No. 15 Northwood. Despite the dismal start Ferris State finished second in the GLIAC with a 106 regular season mark.

Slow Starts

The fourth time was a charm for 28-ranked Midwestern State which went 0-3 to start the season before sweeping Montana State-Billings 9-0. The Mustangs stampeded through the rest of the season losing only four more matches and collecting key wins against No. 21 Northwest Missouri State and No. 32 Southwest Baptist. The Mustangs finished the season with a 14-7 mark and 2-2 record in the Lone Star Conference where they are third in the standings.