BEAUMONT – "This was an incredibly determined group of guys!"
That is how Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Director of Tennis Steve Moore described his team's effort on Thursday afternoon. His team, one of the youngest in the nation and that features three freshmen and a sophomore in the top six, earned the outright Southland Conference Championship after defeating the Lamar Cardinals by a 6-1 final to complete regular season play. The Islanders have now won five straight regular season titles.
Texas A&M – Corpus Christi completed the 2012 regular season with a 11-10 record overall, and were 4-1 in Southland Conference play. The Cardinals finish the season at 7-11 on the year, 1-4 in league matches.
"This was a very relentless, determined group with an incredible will to win the last two days," said Moore. "These young guys really rose up the last two days."
The young players stepped up in a big way this year, with the Islanders losing their top two players from a year ago, Laurent Montoisy and James Langford, two of the top players in school history.
The Islanders on back-to-back days beat first place Nicholls 7-0, and then Lamar on their home court by a 6-1 final. In those matches, the three freshmen and one sophomore each won straight-set victories at their positions.
"I'm incredibly proud of these guys," said Moore. "They fought with all their hearts the last two days.
"This was a great team win. Every guy contributed, and every guy played each point with intensity."
The Islanders record since 2008 is now 31-2 in Southland Conference regular season and tournament matches. The win also gives the Islanders the undisputed No. 1 seed in the Southland Conference Tournament, while UTSA, Nicholls and UT Arlington all tied for second place in the conference. The tournament starts on Friday, April 27, in Nacogdoches and will be hosted by Stephen F. Austin.
"This is one of the toughest years we've ever had in this conference, with UT Arlington reaching the Top 60 and Nicholls the Top 70 in Division I." said Moore.
The Islanders also reached a high of No. 64 in the national rankings this year.
In double play, the Islanders swept the matches, as Aurelien Tave and Peter Nagy won 8-6 at No. 1, Matt Westmoreland and Nathan Robinson took No. 2 doubles by a 9-7 final, and Andrew Maingot and Alex Pavlov also won a close one by an 8-5 final at No. 3 to complete the sweep.
"You can tell how determined a tennis player is by their footwork," said Moore. "These guys really made a statement today with that.
"We win or lose with our fitness, and the last two days that's been the difference."
In singles, Tave won at the No. 1 position, taking a 6-4, 6-1 final, while Nagy, one of the three freshmen, won 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.
Westmoreland, the sophomore in the top six, won in a three-set battle by a 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 final.
The other two freshmen, Fernando Llorens and Pietro Jordao also won in straight sets, with Llorens taking the No. 5 singles match 6-1, 6-0, and Jordao winning 6-3, 6-4 to complete the scoring for the Islanders.
"Every team this year was a flat-out battle, and today was no different," said Moore. "Their coach and program are a class act, and their seniors fought incredibly hard today."
Senior Carlos Valdenebro gave Lamar their only win, beating Robinson at No. 3 singles by a 3-6, 6-0, 10-2 final to finish the match.
The Islanders attention will now turn to preparation for the Southland Conference Tournament, with the team looking to earn its second straight NCAA berth, and make it four-of-five since 2008.
"This team will train as hard a humanly possible for the Southland Conference Tournament," said Moore. "But today I just want them to enjoy this title and how hard they fought to get it.
"There was a lot of pride and a lot of character from these Islanders this year."
Tournament play begins on Friday, April 27, for the men, while the women's tournament will start the day before on Thursday, April 26. Both the men's and women's tourneys will be hosted by Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches.
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