SMITHFIELD, R.I. – In just its second season of Division I postseason eligibility, the Bryant University men's tennis team won its first-ever Northeast Conference Championship, topping Fairleigh Dickinson, 4-3, Saturday afternoon in West Windsor, N.J.
The come-from-behind victory not only serves as the first NEC postseason title for men's tennis, but it also marks just the fourth conference championship in Bryant's six-year Division I history.
"I am extremely proud of how we persevered as a team today," said Bryant head coach Ron Gendron. "Any team can win when they are at the best, but we weren't today and we still found a way to win."
After falling behind early in doubles action, the Bulldogs had their work cut out for them as the two-time defending champs looked well on their way to securing the three peat. At no. 6 singles, Diogo Garnel proved to be too much for freshman Christian Duarte (Dallas, Texas) as the Portugal native swiftly put his team up 2-0 with the 6-2, 6-0 victory.
However, shortly after, junior captain Ernesto Arguello (Managua, Nicaragua) picked up the first point for the Black and Gold with his 6-3, 7-5 win over Arnaud Valentin at no. 4 singles. The Knights increased their lead again, coming within a single point of their third-straight NEC Title with Arvis Berzins straight-set win at no. 1 singles, but the Bulldogs, just as they've done all season long, refused to go home quietly.
Sparked by magnificent come-from-behind victories from Rookie of the Year frontrunner Oliver Welsh (San Diego, Calif.) at no. 3 singles and sophomore Max Vogt (Fair Oaks, Calif.) at the no. 5 spot, the Bulldogs pulled even with FDU, 3-3, with no. 2 singles left to determine a victor.
After putting together a solid first set win, 6-4, junior Zachary Morris (Garden City, N.Y.) dropped the second set, 6-7, to Jacob Whalley, knotting the score, 1-1. In the third and final set, Morris avenged his tough 2013 loss with a triumphant 6-1 victory, not only securing his win, but solidifying the Bulldogs as NEC Champions.
"This was just a sweet victory for Zach [Morris]," said Gendron. "Oliver [Welsh] was a rock all day and Max [Vogt] dug deep with a big comeback win despite not feeling his best.
"This is a well-deserved accomplishment for this team and we hope and expect to be there every year moving forward."
With the win, Bryant not only earns its first NEC Tournament Title, but it also an automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships which begin on May 15. Next up, the Bulldogs will await to see who they will play next with the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship selection show on Tuesday, April 29 (5 p.m.) on NCAA.com.
For all the latest news on the Bryant University men's tennis team, visit BryantBulldogs.com.