DeLAND, Fla. (April 17, 2010) - After second-seeded Stetson tried everything that it could to derail the ETSU men's tennis team's hope of an eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament, the 59th-ranked Bucs simply would not be denied as head coach Yaser Zaatini's squad earned a record fourth straight Atlantic Sun Conference title with a 4-2 win over the Hatters at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center.
ETSU (16-7) opened play by taking the vital doubles point. Playing at the No. 3 slot senior Daniel Isaza (Medellin, Columbia) and sophomore Robin Akser (Ornskoldsvik, Sweden) dismissed SU's Mark Mestan and Njal Stene 8-4. Minutes later sophomore Sander Gille (Kuringen, Belgium) and freshman Jesus Bandres (Carcass, Venezuela) wrapped up the one point advantage with a strong 8-5 victory over Maksim Levanovich and Cesare Gallo in No. 2 doubles action.
As singles competition got underway freshman Juan Ramirez (Asuncion, Paraguay) extended the ETSU lead to 2-0 after the Buc newcomer had little trouble with Stene at No. 6 with a 6-3, 7-5 straight set win.
Just when it looked like ETSU would run away with the match the host Hatters fought back as Alex Hackett and Cesare Gallo tied the contest at 2-2 with wins over sophomore Jeremy Bonnevalle (Keerbergen, Belgium) and junior Charles Bottoni (Bois Guillaume, France) at the No.5 and No. 3 slots.
However, like the character its showed all season ETSU would not give in or quit as Gille - who was named the 2010 A-Sun Player of the Year Wednesday - regained the Buc lead at 3-2 with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Mestan at No. 2.
Needing only one more point for its fourth conference championship in five years, all eyes turned to Court 4 as Isaza and Stetson freshman Didrik Berg battled in a intense three-set match. After the ETSU captain took the first frame 6-4, Berg returned the favor by breaking the Columbia native's serve once for a 4-6 second set win. As set three began the two top performers held serve after the first four games, before the Buc captain took control winning the remaining four games for the title.
With the championship ended Isaza, along with teammate Gille (MVP), earned All-Tournament honors for the Bucs, while Gallo and Levanovich were selected for the Hatters. Campbell's Davy Sum and North Florida's Daniel Sotomarino also were honored by the league after winning two matches this week.
With the victory the Bucs become the first A-Sun team to earn four consecutive titles. ETSU will now wait for the NCAA 2010 Selection Show which will take place live later this month on ESPNEWS. Both the single and doubles selections will be released a day later through the NCAA website.
Attached above our quotes from coach Zaatini and tournament MVP Sander Gille. Also attached above are finals results from today's contest between ETSU and Stetson.
Cesare Gallo, Stetson
Maksim Levanovich, Stetson
Daniel Sotomarino, North Florida
Davy Sum, Campbell
Daniel Isaza, ETSU
Most Valuable Player
Sander Gille, ETSU
For more information on the ETSU men's tennis team please visit www.ETSUBucs.com.