The Lords tennis team won its 12th straight North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Championship over the weekend to earn the conference’s automatic qualifying bid to the 2018 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament.
The Lords started play as the NCAC regular season champions and the top overall seed in the tournament. As the top team in the conference, they started off the tournament facing the eighth-placed Allegheny College Gators in the quarterfinals on Friday morning. The Lords made quick work of the Gators, with only the first doubles match of Weston Noall ’18 and Alex Rieger ’18 requiring more than 11 games.
In the semifinals they faced the fifth-seeded Ohio Wesleyan University Battling Bishops, who had just upset the Wabash College Little Giants in the quarterfinals. The semifinal matchup was another blowout, with the Lords winning 5-0 again. Both the first doubles and second doubles were tight, but the Lords prevailed to take a 3-0 lead entering singles play. It was crucial to win those games in order to preserve their best singles players for the finals the following morning.
In the finals, the Lords faced their biggest rival, Denison University Big Red. This was a rematch from earlier in the season when the Lords came out on top 9-0. This final would be a little tighter, as Brian Weisberg and Vlad Rotnov of Denison were able to pull off a first for the tournament by defeating the Lords in a match. That third doubles match made the overall score 1-1 before Austin Diehl ’20 and Jacob Zalenski ’20 were able to prevail in a tiebreaker to keep the Lords up 2-1 after doubles. Zalenski then put the Lords up 3-1, before Denison’s Patrick McGuigan was able to help the Big Red crawl back and make the score 3-2.
However, once the Big Red had started to develop some hope, Nicholas Paolucci ’20 put away his match to put the Lords up 4-2. At this point, the only thing that stood between the Lords and the NCAC championship was one win. With three matches that went to three sets, the championship could have gone either way had NCAC Player of the Week Diehl not come back and put away Denison’s Jamie McDonald to clinch the 12th consecutive championship.
The Lords’ next quest will be in the NCAA tournament later this month, and they will find out their draw on Monday at noon during the NCAA Division III tennis selection show.