CHARLESTON, S.C. - After a nine-year absence, the top-seeded College of Charleston men's tennis team will go dancing again as the Cougars claimed their first Southern Conference championship title since 2003 with a 4-0 shutout of second-seeded Samford in the finals of the 2012 SoCon Tennis Championships held on Monday afternoon at the CofC Tennis Center at Patriots Point.
The Cougars (18-4) last earned the league's automatic NCAA Tournament bid with a 4-1 victory over former SoCon member East Tennessee State at The Citadel's Earle Tennis Center in 2003. The win avenged a 4-0 loss to the Bulldogs (17-5) in last year's tournament finals in Chattanooga, Tenn.
It marked CofC's second-ever SoCon Tournament title in five all-time appearances in the championship match as runner-ups in 2007 and 2011. This time, it was the Cougars' turn to ride into the sunset.
They quickly built a 1-0 lead as junior Stephen Hardy (Fairfax, Va.) and freshman Alon Faiman (Ramat Hasharon, Israel) got past Samford's Fernando Costa and Carson Kadi, 8-5, at No. 3 doubles and the No. 66 nationally-ranked duo of senior Mickael Trintignac (Le Cannet, France) and junior Kyle Parker (Richmond, Va.) sealed the doubles point with an 8-5 win over Zac Dunkle and Alexander Sajonz at No. 1.
In singles play, junior Billy Kenny (Pawley's Island, S.C.), who had only played in doubles matches towards the end of the regular season, picked up his first singles win of the year with a 6-3, 6-1 decision over Ryan Shidler at the No. 6 line.
Senior Tom Delme (Hamoir, Belgium), who was honored as SoCon Tournament MVP, captured his third-straight match of the tournament behind a valiant and hard-fought effort at No. 2 singles.
"It is a culmination of four years of hard work," said Delme on the first SoCon Tournament title of his career and being named MVP. "We lost in the finals last year and to come back with the same team - it means a lot to the program to win this. Every match I played this season was for the team. Nothing was for me and that's what I learned here during my time at CofC - team work and team spirit. That is the reason why we won. Everyone from 1-to-6 singles and 1-to-3 doubles contributed today. Chris (Toussaint) was behind me cheering me on. Without them, it wouldn't be possible."
After being down 5-2 in the second set to Carson Kadi, Delme won nine of the next 10 games to cruise to a 7-0 second-set tiebreaker and 6-1 third set to put CofC up 3-0 on the scoreboard.
"I saw all of the guys fighting and I didn't want to let the team down," Delme said. "I just fought as hard as I could. I had some good momentum going. I was able to stay in the match and then I came back in the tiebreaker and the momentum changed at that point. Everyone brought a lot of intensity to finish the match."
The Cougars now had two of the four remaining singles matches closing in on the final point with Alon Faiman and Mickael Trintignac up 5-2 and 5-4 on the No. 5 and No. 1 singles courts respectively. Both held the advantage in their final games, but it was Faiman who would clinch it with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory over Alexander Sajonz.
"Being able to play in front of all of our family and friends and fans really paid off today," said 2012 SoCon Men's Tennis Coach of the Year Jay Bruner, who is in his fifth year and leads his first CofC squad to the NCAA Tournament. "We had a bunch of long matches against a really good Samford team. The guys really found some extra spirit to get through the match. It definitely paid off being able to play at home for the tournament.
"It means a lot for our program to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. It's been a long break, especially for our seniors and the whole team. They have put in a lot of hard work the last three seasons and it has been a goal for our seniors Tom (Delme), Guga (Trintignac) and Chris (Toussaint) and this is just an awesome win and accomplishment to seal their career and season."
CofC will learn of its postseason matchup as the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championship field of 64 tournament bracket and pairings will be announced on Tuesday, May 1 at 5 p.m. (ET) on www.NCAA.com.
#1 COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON 4, #2 SAMFORD 0
2012 SoCon Men's Tennis Championship - Finals
April 23, 2012
CofC Tennis Center
at Charleston, S.C.
No. 1 - Mickael Trintignac (CofC) vs. Zac Dunkle (Samford), 6-2, 1-6, 5-4, DNF.
No. 2 - Tom Delme (CofC) def. Carson Kadi (Samford), 2-6, 7-6 (0), 6-1.
No. 3 - Kyle Parker (CofC) vs. Elliot Barnwell (Samford), 5-7, 6-3, 1-2, DNF.
No. 4 - Crescente Lesser (CofC) vs. Fernando Costa (Samford), 6-2, 3-6, 1-2, DNF.
No. 5 - Alon Faiman (CofC) def. Alexander Sajonz (Samford), 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.
No. 6 - Billy Kenny (CofC) def. Ryan Shidler (Samford), 6-3, 6-1.
No. 1 - (66) Mickael Trintignac-Kyle Parker (CofC) def. Zac Dunkle-Alexander Sajonz (Samford), 8-5.
No. 2 - Billy Kenny-Tom Delme (CofC) vs. Elliot Barnwell-Ryan Shidler (Samford), 7-4, DNF.
No. 3 - Stephen Hardy-Alon Faiman (CofC) def. Fernando Costa-Carson Kadi (Samford), 8-5.
ORDER OF FINISH
Doubles: 3, 1
Singles: 6, 2, 5*