MOBILE, Ala. — Streaks ended and continued Saturday when second-seeded Xavier University of Louisiana fell 5-0 to top-seeded Georgia Gwinnett in the final of the NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship.
It was a rematch of the 2016 final, which the Grizzlies won 5-2, and it was the fourth consecutive national title for Georgia Gwinnett (23-0). But this time XULA (14-6) didn’t win a match; the Gold Rush lost 8-4 on all three doubles courts after winning 2-of-3 in doubles a year ago.
“We got off to a really slow start in doubles, and that took a lot out of us,” XULA coach Alan Green said. “We fought hard to come back in singles, and for 20 or 30 minutes it looked like we shifted the momentum. But Georgia Gwinnett did what it had to do to clinch.”
It was the first time since the 2014 quarterfinals that the Rush failed to win a doubles match at nationals. All three matches ended within three minutes of each other, and it was the first losses of the tournament for the teams of Antoine Richard-Moses Micheal and Karan Salwan-Tushar Mandlekar.
About 90 minutes later, the Grizzlies clinched and capped a second straight unbeaten season. Rafael Coutinho defeated Adam Albrecht 6-0, 6-4 on the sixth singles court, then Federico Duran beat Mandlekar 6-2, 6-0 at No. 5. Mandlekar, XULA’s all-time winningest player at nationals, lost for the first time in nine singles decisions at the tournament.
XULA’s brightest moments were in singles, where Micheal led Jordan Cox — the ITA’s second-ranked NAIA player — 7-6 (7-4), 0-1 when the dual was clinched, and Catalin Fifea led Connor Clements 6-3, 4-2. When XULA lost 5-0 Feb. 19 at Georgia Gwinnett, Micheal lost 6-0, 6-0 to Cox. Micheal is the second NAIA player to win a set against Cox in dual matches this season.
“Moses has gotten better with every match,” Green said. “Cat (Fifea) has been rock-solid and a leader for us all season.”
The Gold Rush are 0-6 all-time against Georgia Gwinnett and have yet to win a singles match. The Grizzlies extended their overall win streak to 55 dual matches — they were 26-0 in 2016 — and they’re 34-0 the last three seasons against NAIA opponents and 16-0 all-time at nationals.
Can any school catch the Grizzlies? “We’ve got to keep trying,” Green said. “We’re not going to put our heads down after this and shut it down and quit. We’re going to come back next year and keep trying.”
NOTES: It was the final college competition for XULA seniors Albrecht, Mandlekar and Salwan . . . Albrecht and Mandlekar, reached the national quarterfinals or better each of their four seasons . . . Salwan’s final two singles matches were unfinished, and he finished the semester 11-1 with five unfinished matches, four of which he led . . . XULA’s .700 winning percentage this season is the second highest of Green’s 14 seasons as coach. The Gold Rush finished 17-7 (.708) in 2009
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