ELON, N.C. – Second-seeded Elon University men’s tennis staged a dramatic comeback to knock off two-time defending champion UNCW, 4-3, and capture its first CAA Men’s Tennis Championship on Saturday, April 20. Camilo Ponce clinched the championship with his three-set victory in singles on court five.
With the victory, the Phoenix (21-4) earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they will make their first appearance since 2014 when they were members of the Southern Conference. The Seahawks, who have won six CAA titles in the past 11 years, finished its season at 12-11 overall with the loss.
After Elon won a tightly contested doubles point, UNCW stormed back to take a 3-1 lead winning on courts three, six and two at the start of singles play. Felipe Sarrasague began Elon’s comeback with his victory over Austin Hussey on the top court.
The Phoenix trailed 3-2 in the match when rain forced play to be moved from Elon’s Jimmy Powell Tennis Center to the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center in Greensboro, N.C. Kyle Frankel was up 3-2 in his second-set tiebreaker on court four and Ponce was level at 5-5 in his second set on court five when play was suspended.
Following a two-hour delay, Frankel and UNCW’s Bruno Caula resumed their second-set tiebreaker at No. 4 and Frankel pulled out a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) win to deadlock the contest. At No. 5 position, the Seahawks’ Leo Sprovieri got a break against Ponce in the second set to win 7-5 and force a third. Ponce jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead and then recorded his fourth service break of the set to earn a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 victory that clinched the victory for the Phoenix.
Elon grabbed an early lead in the match following a fiercely contested doubles competition. Phoenix duo of Frankel and Ponce got a critical break at 5-all on court two and went on to a 7-5 win over Agustin Savarino and Caula. UNCW drew even at No. 3 when Michael Copeland and Daniel Groom pulled out a 7-6 (7-4) triumph over Taylor Foote and Dino Bonetta. The point was decided in another tiebreaker at No. 1 as Elon’s Felipe Sarrasague and Mario Paccini edged Austin Hussey and Cole Groetsch, 7-6 (8-6).
UNCW changed the momentum quickly in singles. Groom rolled to a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Felipe Osses-Konig at No. 3, Savarino topped Paccini, 7-5, 6-1, at No. 2 and Davide Innocenti beat Foote, 7-5, 6-2 at No. 6, to give the Seahawks a 3-1 advantage.
Elon closed to within 3-2 after Sarrasague picked up a 6-4, 6-2 win over Austin Hussey at No. 1, before rain forced the remaining two matches to be halted.
– Elon wins its first Colonial Athletic Association title and its first conference championship since winning the Southern Conference tournament title in 2014.
– The Phoenix earns its first automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament since 2014. Elon went on to face Tennessee in its opening round match that season.
– Elon earns its third NCAA tournament appearance under head coach Michael Leonard with the victory over the Seahawks.
– With its victory, Elon’s 21 wins this season matches the second-most by a Phoenix squad under the direction of Leonard. Elon posted a 21-6 record in 2009 and had its most under Leonard in 2007 when the program notched 23 victories.
– Championship match play was suspended due to light rain at the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center. After a two-hour delay, play resumed at the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center in Greensboro, N.C. at 6:55 p.m.
Elon will now await the 2019 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship selection show on Monday, April 29, to find out who it will face in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Elon 4, UNCW 3
Apr 20, 2019 at Elon, N.C./Greensboro, N.C.
1. #96 Felipe Sarrasague (ELON) def. Austin Hussey (UNCW) 6-4, 6-2
2. Agustin Savarino (UNCW) def. Mario Paccini (ELON) 7-5, 6-1
3. Daniel Groom (UNCW) def. Felipe Osses-Konig (ELON) 6-4, 6-0
4. Kyle Frankel (ELON) def. Bruno Caula (UNCW) 6-2, 7-6 (7-5)
5. Camilo Ponce (ELON) def. Leo Sprovieri (UNCW) 6-4, 5-7, 6-3
6. Davide Innocenti (UNCW) def. Taylor Foote (ELON) 7-5, 6-2
1. Felipe Sarrasague/Mario Paccini (ELON) def. Austin Hussey/Cole Groetsch (UNCW) 7-6 (8-6)
2. Kyle Frankel/Camilo Ponce (ELON) def. Agustin Savarino/Bruno Caula (UNCW) 7-5
3. Michael Copeland/Daniel Groom (UNCW) def. Taylor Foote/Dino Bonetta (ELON) 7-6 (7-4)
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (3,6,2,1,4,5)