Was it a Valentine’s Day breakthrough for Xavier University of Louisiana men’s tennis?
Maybe, coach Alan Green said after his Gold Rush, a longtime NAIA power, won 6-1 Sunday at Nicholls State of NCAA Division I. “It’s still early,” Green said, “but I feel like we’ve got a pretty good team. We can do some really good things. But we still have a long way to go.”
For the Gold Rush (3-2), ranked fourth, it was the first victory in nine dual matches against the Colonels (1-2). There had been three close calls in recent seasons, including 4-3 a year ago, but this time Xavier left no doubt. The Rush won the doubles point and four singles matches on the court.
It was the 30th victory in Green’s 13 seasons against a Division I men’s opponent but the third against a non-HBCU from that level.
Nicholls State made Xavier’s path easier because the Colonels had five available players. That resulted in default victories for the Rush at No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles, and Xavier needed just one on-court victory to claim the doubles point. The Rush got that when Karan Salwan and Kyle Montrel beat Max Sinn and Evan Karatzas 6-3.
Xavier maintained its momentum during singles. Salwan defeated Kieran Cronin 6-4, 6-3, then freshman Thomas Setodji, in his first day of collegiate competition, clinched the dual with a 6-2, 6-2 decision against Sam Meessen. Adam Albrecht extended Xavier’s lead to 5-0 when he toppled Oscar Reeve 6-2, 6-3.
Karatzas beat Montrel 6-2, 4-6, 1-0 (10-3) at the top singles flight, but the Gold Rush ended the dual with another victory — Tushar Mandlekar defeated Sinn 2-6, 7-5, 1-0 (10-6).
“Nicholls played us tough,” Green said. “They didn’t play like they were down a guy. But our guys withstood their challenge and took care of business.”
Setodji, winner of three state singles championships as a French junior, found his groove after he and Kevin Chaouat dropped their first four doubles games. They won four of the next five games before falling 6-4 to Reeve and Cronin, then Setodji cruised in singles, dropping fewer games than any of his teammates.
“I was tense in doubles,” Setodji said. “The conditions were difficult, and those guys (Nicholls) played well. But things got better in singles. Everything in singles was great from start to finish.”
Next for Xavier’s men and women will be the Green and Gray Invitational at Lawrenceville, Ga. They’ll play SCAD Savannah Friday, Georgia Gwinnett Saturday and Cumberland Sunday. All six of those opponents were in the NAIA’s preseason top 25s. New rankings will be announced Tuesday. Georgia Gwinnett’s men are a two-time defending national champion.