Gold Rush will play for national title Saturday

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MOBILE, Ala. — Xavier University of Louisiana knocked off a higher seed for the second straight round in a 5-3 men’s tennis victory against Cardinal Stritch in the semifinals of the NAIA National Championship tournament Friday.

The seventh-seeded Gold Rush (17-8) will play top-seeded and five-time defending champion Georgia Gwinnett (26-0) for the title at 9 a.m. Saturday at Copeland-Cox Mobile Tennis Center (851 Gaillard Drive, zip code 36608, phone 251-208-5181). Admission is free.

XULA dropped 2-of-3 doubles matches, then won 4-of-5 singles decisions to advance to the final for the third time in four years. Pierre Andrieu clinched on court five for the second straight day, this time in a 6-1, 6-4 victory against Niccolo Rossi.

XULA trailed 3-1 when Agustin Gascia ended Santiago Perez’s 17-match singles win streak. But the Gold Rush held momentum with first-set victories on the other five courts, then rallied with four victories within 30 minutes.

Shaikh Abdullah cut Stritch’s advantage to 3-2 when he defeated Jose Chamba 6-2, 6-4 on court three. Then Samir Chikhaoui tied the dual at 3 with his first victory of the tournament, 6-1, 6-2 against Javier Appellaniz on court six. Gabriel Niculescu put the Gold Rush ahead to stay with his 6-3, 6-4 victory against Nicola Wehrle on court four.

XULA’s lone doubles point came from Abdullah and Perez, who won with a rally for the second straight day. They trailed 4-1 against Rossi and Wehrle before winning 8-5.

Gascia won in doubles and singles for third-seeded Cardinal Stritch (18-5), a semifinalist for the first time. Gascia and Nicolas Palacio saved two match points and won the final five games in a 9-7 doubles victory on court three against Niculescu and Chris Anders.

It will be the fourth straight year that XULA and Georgia Gwinnett meet at nationals. The Grizzlies won 5-2 in the 2016 final, 5-0 in the 2017 final and 5-0 in the 2018 semifinals.

Georgia Gwinnett defeated fifth-seeded William Carey 5-0 in the other semifinal.

XULA has defeated three top-10 seeds this week. The Gold Rush beat No. 10 Union (Ky.) 5-0 Wednesday and No. 2 Reinhardt 5-1 Thursday. XULA is the lowest seeded team to reach an NAIA men’s tennis final. Every previous finalist had been seeded third or higher.

Semifinals — Friday
XULA 5, Cardinal Stritch 3
Georgia Gwinnett 5, William Carey 0

Final — 9 a.m. Saturday
No. 1 Georgia Gwinnett (26-0) vs. No. 7 XULA (17-8)

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