Last fall, Barry junior Ahmed Triki lost in the semifinals to St. Leo’s Alberto Barroso-Campos in the USTA/ITA South Regional. Triki remembered that loss when the two players faced each other in a April 8 rematch that counted on Triki’s 2016 record.
“I have to be more focused,” Triki said of playing a highly-ranked player. “I was going in for revenge and bring a point for my team.”
The team chemistry is one aspect why Triki, who is from Tunis, Tunisia, enjoys playing tennis for Barry.
“We really feel like family here,” Triki said. “Also, the coaches create a good atmosphere and they help us improve every single day.”
A year ago, Triki became the first player at Barry to win 15 matches without a loss in the Buccaneers’ run to the 2015 NCAA Division II national title.
“It makes me happy to leave some kind of a record at Barry that maybe people can remember me or maybe in the future, someone will want to break it, and I will be someone to refer to,” Triki said.
With one regular season dual left in the 2016 season, Triki is again undefeated at 11-0 and one of those victories came against Barroso-Campos in the rematch on April 8. Triki, ranked fourth in the country, beat third-ranked Barroso-Campos in three sets.
Off the court, Triki is majoring in finance. On the court, his major could be the art of collecting Sunshine State Conference Player of the Week awards.
After defeating Barroso-Campos and No. 14 Marc Hofer of Lander, Triki earned his third SSC Player of the Week. It is the third season he has won it three times.
“It means a lot,” Triki said. “This award makes you want to give 100 percent every week so you have a chance to win it over and over again. It pushes me to try to win all my matches every single time. It adds a lot to my resume.”
In his 26th season coaching tennis at Barry, George Samuel said Triki ranks as one of the best players ever in the program.
That statement by Samuel is high praise considering Barry completed undefeated national championship seasons in 2015 and 2013. On two other occasions, the Buccaneers finished back-to-back national runner-ups (2008, 2009 and 1998, 1999).
“He has contributed a lot and especially the previous year when we won the national championship,” Samuel said. “Without him last year, I know it wouldn’t have been possible. He made a heck of an impact.
“He is playing very well this season. He has been one of the best players I have had in the history of Barry University. I’m not saying the best, but among the top three that Barry has ever had. We have had some good ones. He definitely stacks right up there with them.”
Barry is 12-5 this season and ranked third in the South Region, behind No. 1 Saint Leo and No. 2 West Florida.
“Right now, we are trying to improve some areas in doubles and also in singles some of the players are playing better and better,” Triki said. “It will be a great goal to finish the season at a good level so we are motivated for conference and then regionals and hopefully qualify for nationals. We are trying to play the best that we can in our last few matches so we start conference motivated and with a lot of confidence.”
In 11 days, Barry will be competing in the SSC Tournament that runs from April 28 through April 30 in Tampa. The Buccaneers know they can count on Triki to give his best.
“He is really good for us in singles,” Samuel said. “He leads the team in No. 1 singles and he can pretty much beat everyone in that position across the country. In doubles, he makes a significant impact as well with whoever he plays with. He is a very dynamic type of tennis player.”
But the thing that has made Barry strong on a yearly basis is it doesn’t count on just one player to be successful.
“It is a team sport,” Samuel said. “It is not just about the one person that may be spectacular on the team. It is about everybody trying to contribute to the success of it. We preach that every day. We have good chemistry. Chemistry is something we try to work on all the time.
“Everybody plays with everybody. Everybody gets to play. You want to make everybody feel important. That is the key.”
The Buccaneers would like to make another nice run in the national tournament. The South Regional is May 7-8 and the NCAA Division II round of 16 starts May 18 in Denver, Colo., and concludes May 21 with the championship match.
“It is not the same team year after year,” Samuel said. “We have some experience and we have some young players. The combination is good. We are working on where we fell short at in some of our matches. We are optimistic in trying to do our best.
“I think we are very close to just about every team in the country as far as the top 10 teams. It is just a matter of who is going to play better that particular day. We keep working on it. We are putting our time in to get something going towards the end.”
Another men’s tennis team to watch
Hawaii Pacific, last year’s runner-up in NCAA Division II, appear poised to make another deep run in the championship tournament.
On Friday, in the PacWest Conference Tournament, the Sharks beat No. 23 Brigham Young-Hawaii 5-0 and followed that with a 5-1 victory over No. 18 Azusa Pacific on Saturday.
It was the fourth straight conference title for Hawaii Pacific, which improved to 17-3 this season.
Senior Clemens Graute was selected MVP of the conference tournament.
A women’s tennis team to watch
It is nearly impossible to top a 33-0, national championship season that Armstrong State (Ga.) women’s tennis team accomplished in 2015. So far, in 2016, the Pirates are coming very close.
A 7-2 win over No. 10 Flagler on April 13 allowed the Pirates to clinch a share of their 13th straight Peach Belt Conference regular season title.
Armstrong St. heads into its final regular-season match on Tuesday (April 19) with a 22-1 record. The only loss was 5-4 at St. Leo on March 5. That one loss must have refocused the Pirates, who prevented their next five opponents from winning one match.
Sophomore Nicole Fossa Huergo is 11-1 in No. 1 singles and 4-1 in No. 2 singles and sophomore Lena Lutzeier is 9-1 in No. 1 singles and 12-1 in No. 2 singles.