McMurry University men’s tennis will play for the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) national championship on Friday morning, after dominating Roberts Wesleyan College, 5-0, in its semifinal match at the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center. The War Hawks (14-11) will face Azusa Pacific University in the title bout on Friday (9 a.m.).
The squad will be the second McMurry team – joining the 2012 volleyball squad – to play in an NCCAA national championship game. Volleyball went on the win the championship, as well.
The War Hawks are guaranteed of bettering their third place finish of 2013, the team’s first trip to the NCCAA finals. But, according to McM head coach Mark Hathorn, McMurry has its eyes on the big prize in 2014.
"When my men came to this tournament last year, there were a few jitters and don't know if they believed they could win,” Hathorn recounted. “This year, with the experience that we have with this team, they knew they could win. I am proud of our doubles play so far; we have won 11 out of 12 doubles matches and won most of them decisively.
“When you start (matches) with three wins, the singles are defiantly easier. We are strong in singles throughout, but doubles is what drives this team’s success. Roberts Wesleyan put up a great fight, but we had some great singles play from Casjen (Rico) and Felipe (Cruz).”
That strong doubles play was on display in the shutout over Roberts Wesleyan College on Thursday. McMurry’s pairs lost a total of just five games between the three contests. The No. 1 doubles team of senior Chris Breaux and Rico stopped the Redhawks’ team of Charles Farres and Sam Thorold, 8-2.
McMurry’s No. 2 doubles team of Cruz and Dani Perez had little trouble with RWC’s Beka Buchukuri and Julio Toledo, 8-1. At No. 3 doubles, Preston Steblein and Cristiano Mendes dispatched of Robert Beer and Emanuel Rauchle, 8-3.
That sent the War Hawks into singles play needing just two points to reach five and clinch the match victory….and spot in the championship match. The deciding wins came from the Nos. 1 and 5 singles slots.
Cruz cruised past Buchukuri at the No. 1 match, winning in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1. Then at No. 5, McM’s Rico downed RWC’s Beer, 6-0, 6-3 in the clincher. It was Rico’s 21st singles win of the season.
“We have a tough one,” Hathorn said of the match versus APU. “But feel we are ready for it. Azusa Pacific got second last year and I know they want it bad. I think we stack up well and have similar results against the other teams in the tournament. If we play our best tennis tomorrow, I like our chances."
TOURNAMENT NOTES: The doubles team of Chris Breaux and Casjen Rico, along with No. 1 singles player Felipe Cruz, were named to the NCCAA’s all-tournament team … The RWC match was the War Hawks’ second shutout of the tournament (also blanking Indiana Wesleyan, 5-0, in the pool play round) … McM’s men’s team has a five-match winning streak heading into the NCCAA title game … APU defeated McM, 5-1, in last meeting in pool play at 2013 NCCAA championships ... With storms predicted for the Mobile area on Friday, the championship matches would be moved indoors to the Mobile Convention Center, if necessary, to complete the tournament.
McMurry University 5, Roberts Wesleyan 0 May 07, 2014 atMobile, Ala. (Copeland-Cox Tennis Center) Singles competition
1. Felipe Cruz (MCMMT) def. Beka Buchukuri (RWCM) 6-1, 6-1
2. Chris Breaux (MCMMT) vs. Charles Farres (RWCM) 2-6, 2-4, unfinished
3. Preston Steblein (MCMMT) vs. Sam Thorold (RWCM) 6-5, unfinished
4. Dani Perez (MCMMT) vs. Julio Toledo (RWCM) 5-7, 1-0, unfinished
5. Casjen Rico (MCMMT) def. Robert Beer (RWCM) 6-0, 6-3
6. Cristiano Mendes (MCMMT) vs. Emanuel Rauchle (RWCM) 6-6, unfinished
1. Chris Breaux/Casjen Rico (MCMMT) def. Charles Farres/Sam Thorold (RWCM) 8-2
2. Felipe Cruz/Dani Perez (MCMMT) def. Beka Buchukuri/Julio Toledo (RWCM) 8-1
3. Preston Steblein/Cristiano Mendes (MCMMT) def. Robert Beer/Emanuel Rauchle (RWCM) 8-3
Roberts Wesleyan 15-7; Regional ranking #5
McMurry University 14-11; Regional ranking #8
National Christian College Athletic Association championships- men's semifinal
McM to play Azusa Pacific in national championship match on Friday
Information for this story provided by McMurry Athletics.