ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. -- West Florida entered the NCAA Division II championships with a No. 1 national ranking and the favorite to win its third national championship. The Argonauts lived up to their billing and defeated Hawaii Pacific 5-3 in the national championship match at Sanlando Park on Saturday afternoon.
“This is the greatest group of guys,” UWF head coach and ITA Division II National Coach of the Year Derrick Racine said. “They have worked so hard for it. To win it this year, when we’ve been so close the last few years, is a really special feeling.”
UWF jumped out to a 3-0 lead in doubles, but the wins did not come easy. Bruno Savi and Tony Rajaobelina defeated Petr Michnev and Thibaud Berland at No. 1 doubles by a score of 8-4 to put the Argos up 1-0. Alex Peyrot and Felipe Frattini made it 2-0 with an 8-5 win against Jaume Martinez-Vich and Mattis Wetzel at the No. 2 spot.
The Argos got their third, and ultimately most important, doubles win at the No. 3 spot. Domenico Sano and Elio Latella were able to outlast Yann Renault and Adriano Locorotondo by a score of 9-8 and needed a 9-7 tiebreaker to clinch the point.
“Doubles was a war out there,” Racine said. “Somehow we pulled out all three doubles. I knew then that it was going to be our day.”
In singles play, Savi defeated Petr Michnev by a score of 6-2, 6-2 at the No. 1 spot. The Argos led 4-1 at that point, but Hawaii Pacific fought back with wins at the Nos. 4, 3 and 5 spots, in that order, to make the score 4-3.
The deciding point came down to the wire, as Tony Rajaobelina battled Jaume Martinez-Vich at the No. 2 spot and Elio Latella faced Clemens Graute at No. 6. Rajaobelina and Latella both had chances to clinch the win, but ultimately it was Rajaobelina to clinch the championship with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win. Latella was leading 7-5, 6-5 as play concluded.
The national championship is the third for the program and the eighth across all sports at UWF. The previous two national championships for UWF in men’s tennis came in 2004 and '05, and those titles were also won at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.