April 22, 2010

By Michael Wilson
Special to NCAA.com

Pillaging the Peach Belt

The top-ranked Armstrong Atlantic Pirates won the Peach Belt Conference for the sixth straight time with a convincing win over No. 10 Columbus State, 5-1.

The 27-1 Pirates won the first round match against No. 26 USC Aiken in five straight games and went on to handle 13th-ranked Francis Marion, 5-1. The title match was a rematch from early in the season in which the Pirates beat the Cougars, 9-0.

AASU completed its PBC title defense for the sixth time as the team has owned the title since 2005. The Pirates also swept the yearly awards as Mika Irdoja earned player of the year and Matus Mydla won freshman of the year, while coach of the year was awarded to Coach Simon Earnshaw, who also earned his 500th career win earlier this year.

The Pirates are first in the southeast region and earned an automatic bid with the conference win. Columbus State, second in the region, will have to wait for a NCAA at-large bid.

Sinking the Sunshine State

The Sunshine State Conference title match came down to rivals third-ranked Lynn and fifth-ranked Barry resulting in a nail-biting 5-4 finish. The Buccaneers claimed the title after avenging the regular season loss to Lynn just three weeks before the title bout.
Barry fell behind early losing the second and third doubles matches 8-3, 8-6. The Buccaneers' first doubles team upset the third-ranked team nationally in Lynn's Alessandro Sarra and Willi Wolfer in an 8-5 result.

Barry went on to win the first three singles points to go up 4-2 after Max Wimmer beat No. 32 Luca Pavanelli in the fourth singles spot, 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 6-1. The Buccaneers then struggled to close out the title match as Lynn's No. 12 Alessandro Sarra and No. 38 Willi Wolfer took two points in the first and second singles spot. Finally, Ales Svigelj clinched the championship by upending Tomas Racak in straight sets.

Barry finishes the conference tournament with a 19-4 record and an automatic bid to the NCAA regionals along with VSU and AASU. Lynn has a 17-4 record on the season and is tied for second in the regional rankings. Barry is the fifth-ranked team in the south region.

Burning up the Gulf

The Valdosta State Blazers burned through Gulf South Conference winning the title for the fourth straight time and the ninth time in school history.

The second-ranked Blazers downed rival and fourth-ranked Ouachita Baptist, 5-1, after sweeping doubles play in the championship match. It marked the third straight time the Blazers and the Tigers squared off in the GSC title match with VSU coming out on top each time.

The Tigers haven't been able to figure the Blazers out having lost to the GSC Champs twice this season with the first coming on March 14 in a 2-7 loss. They have also lost the last three conference finals matches to the Blazers.

The Blazers handled the GSC competition only losing one game throughout the tournament and added to their now 15-game winning streak. The team dispatched first and second-round opponents Christian Brothers and North Alabama 5-0. The Blazers are now 18-1 on the season with their only loss coming at the hands of fifth-ranked Barry on Feb. 15.

The Blazers also earned GSC honors for player of the year and head coach of the year as Phillip Pakebusch and Coach John Hansen lifted the decorated squad to post season success for a fourth year in a row. Hansen has taken home the award 10 times while Pakebusch makes for the 11th overall VSU player to earn player of the year honors.

The Blazers lead the south region and locked up the automatic bid to regionals with the title win, while Ouachita, tied with Lynn for second, will need an at-large bid to make it to the regional matches on May 6.

An East Coast State of Mind

No. 37 Queens (N.Y.), the top-seeded team in the tournament, has made a strong run to the finals of the East Coast Conference. The Knights face Dowling in the conference finals.

The Knights are 16-2 on the season after showing off its conference dominance by sweeping the University of the District of Columbia Firebirds in the semifinals. The semifinal win marks the Knights second commanding victory over the Firebirds this season.

The Golden Lions beat St. Thomas Aquinas 7-2 after taking a 2-1 lead through doubles play and finishing the victory of with three straight sets wins in singles play. It was the second meeting between the teams as the Golden Lions sweep the season series. Dowling improves to 8-3 on the season and St. Thomas Aquinas falls to 5-12.

The Knights beat Dowling twice in the regular season sweeping them in the first match up and winning 7-2 in the second competition. The Knights are the second-ranked team in the east region behind Concordia, which stands as 11th in the national rankings. Dowling is seventh in the region. Both teams are looking for an automatic berth in the regional round of the NCAA tournament and each as the opportunity with a conference championship win.