XULA men’s tennis earns 14th straight trip to nationals

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NEW ORLEANS — Mathieu Strauss handled the stress. As a result, Xavier University of Louisiana men’s tennis is headed to NAIA nationals for the 14th consecutive time.

Strauss, a freshman, lost his first singles set on court four but rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory Saturday against Our Lady of the Lake’s Murilo Salviato. That gave the Gold Rush a 4-3 decision against the Saints in the championship round of an NAIA unaffiliated group tournament at XULA.

The Gold Rush (17-6) won an end-of-season conference/group tournament for the 10th time in Alan Green’s 20 seasons as head coach and the second year in a row. Nationals will be May 16-20 in Mobile, Ala.

This was the first time that XULA’s men won an end-of-season tournament final by one point. In both matches at this event, the Gold Rush won four singles matches after losing the doubles point.

“This weekend was very tough for us,” Green said. “We played two opponents who were very hungry for a bid to nationals. Both coaches Kai Fong (Lewis-Clark State) and Dave Watts (OLLU) had their teams very well prepared. I think it was the two toughest back-to-back matches all season.”

It was the second time this season that Strauss won in three sets against OLLU. Both times Strauss lost the first set.

“The first set today I was rushing and missing some balls that I shouldn’t have missed,” Strauss said. “I just had to stay focused on the objective, which was to win the match. I started putting more pressure on my opponent, got him running around more, and I did great the last two sets.”

With Strauss leading 4-1 in the third set, Salviato took a medical break, then won the next two games. But Strauss held serve for a 5-3 lead, and he broke Salviato at love to clinch.

OLLU’s Enzo Frequelin was the only player to win in doubles and singles. Frequelin and Chris Doyal clinched the doubles point with a 6-1 decision against Dedric Ray and Guillermo Coiras, and Frequelin gave the Saints a 2-0 lead with his 6-3, 6-0 victory against Coiras at No. 5 singles.

But XULA, with little remaining room for error, stormed back. Nereo Suarez beat Doyal 6-2, 6-1 on court three. Then Julius Hell tied the match at 2 with his 6-2, 6-3 victory on court two against Johan Favelin. It was 3-2 Gold Rush when Jacobi Bain rallied for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory on court one against Kyllian Savary, but the Saints rallied, too. On court six Guido Picasso tied the match at 3 with his 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory against Jered Wilson.

“Our guys played like they love each other, and that’s been very important for us this season,” Green said. “They earned this championship. They deserve it.”

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