Lions fall just short in NCAA Final

Lions fall just short in NCAA Final

DENVER, COLO. – The dream season came to an end on Saturday evening, when the No. 1 Saint Leo men's tennis team fell to No. 3 Hawaii Pacific, 5-3, in the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship match.

In doubles play, with the match score tied 1-1, it came down to No. 3 doubles in Francisco Aparicio and Oskar Nurmio. They battled with HPU's Toben Otto and Jakub Hadrava and were even down 7-6. But they battled and evened the set at 8-8 and sent it to tiebreak. From the beginning of tiebreak, the Lions were in command, taking a 6-2 lead before HPU tacked on a third point. But on Aparicio's serve, HPU sent Aparicio scrambling from sideline to sideline, before one of his chase-downs was too much for the Sharks to handle, giving the Lions' duo their seventh and set-winning point, and giving Saint Leo a 2-1 lead after doubles.

The Lions also saw the No. 1 duo of Alex Theiler and Alberto Barroso-Campos take an 8-6 win over the No. 3 pair of Thibaud Berland and Alex Meyer at the No. 1 flight, while the Sharks took their lone doubles point at flight No. 2, 8-2, as Filip Delexel and Jaime Martinez-Vich topped Egor Panyushkin and Jaime Bueno.

In singles play both teams battled back and forth before the No. 1 singles player in the nation, Berland, took down the No. 4 player in Barroso-Campos, 6-3, 6-3, in the only two-set match of the evening.

With the score now tied 2-2, Panyushkin was forced into a third set after opening with a 6-2 first set, before falling 3-6 in his second to Martinez-Vich. In the third set, Panyushkin pushed the Lions to a 3-2 lead, taking the match with a 6-4 win.

With every other match in third set, the Sharks again evened the score with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win as Jakub Hadrava was able to fend off the pesky Elliot Carnello, who fought back to force the third set.

The Sharks gained their first lead of the match as they took the No. 5 flight, despite the fight of Saint Leo's Guillaume Vanelven. After falling, 4-6 in the first set, Vanelven pushed Torben Otto to a third set after taking the second, 7-5. In the third and deciding set, Otto proved to be too much, taking the match point with a 6-1 third set win.

With both No. 2 and 4 still in action, Theiler looked to keep his season alive after forcing a third set by taking his second, 7-6 (7-5) in tiebreak, following a first set, 5-7, loss. However, it ultimately did not matter as the Sharks were able to claim the fifth and final point in at No.4.

Jaime Bueno took his first set, 6-1, but Delezel, the only athlete of the day to be a part of two points for his team, fought back and took the second, 6-3. In the third set, the two fought and competed, but ultimately, Delezel was able to clinch the match for the Sharks with a 7-6 (7-3) in tiebreak.

Saint Leo wrapped up their season with a 27-2 record, both losses coming to HPU. The Lions finish as National Runners-Up in their first-ever trip to the NCAA Championships.

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