Savannah, Ga. — The No. 8-ranked and third-seeded Lander men's tennis team earned a 5-3 victory over Peach Belt Conference rival USC Aiken in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tournament on Saturday afternoon, defeating the No. 29-ranked and sixth-seeded Pacers at the Armstrong State Tennis Complex to keep their hopes for a ninth national title alive.
The Bearcats took a 2-1 lead after doubles action and quickly stretched their advantage to 3-1 as Ozan Cildir defeated USC Aiken's Woj Adamek in straight sets. The Pacers promptly battled back to even the score at 3-3, but Lander's Jules Vauthier and Eirik Groner each earned crucial two-set victories to secure the win.
Lander had already bested USC Aiken twice this year, 7-2 in the regular season and 5-2 in the first round of the PBC Tournament, but Saturday marked the first time that the two programs had ever faced off in the NCAA Tournament.
Lander improves to 17-5, while the Pacers finish their season at 10-10 overall.
In singles, No. 1 Eirik Groner (LU) def. Mathias Degardin (USCA) 6-2, 6-2; No. 2 Antonio Sabugueiro (USCA) def. David Korsten (LU) 6-4, 6-1; No. 3 Julien Tan (USCA) def. Marc Hofer (LU) 6-3, 6-1; No. 4 Jules Vauthier (LU) def. Hunter Lathrop (USCA) 6-4, 6-2; and No. 5 Ozan Cildir (LU) def. Woj Adamek (USCA) 6-2, 6-0.
In doubles, No. 1 Degardin/Tan (USCA) def. Omar El-Moslemany/Hofer (LU) 8-4; No. 2 Korsten/Vauthier (LU) def. Sabugueiro/Tales Silva (USCA) 9-8 (8-6); and No. 3 Groner/Cildir (LU) def. Adamek/Lathrop (USCA) 8-1.
The Bearcats will face No. 7-ranked and second-seeded Armstrong State (19-7) at 1:00 p.m., Sunday afternoon for the right to play in the NCAA Championships Round of 16, May 9-12 in Altamonte Springs, Fla.
The host Pirates topped Lander 5-4 during the regular season and knocked the Bearcats out of the PBC Tournament after earning a 5-1 victory in the semifinals.