Jaguars return as conference champions
With a nail-biting 5-4 victory over Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, the team that has dominated the region for a decade, the Georgia Perimeter College Jaguars won the GCAA men’s tennis championship Saturday at Oxford College of Emory in Oxford, Ga.
The win punches the Jaguars’ ticket to a couple of weeks of hard practice and a trip to Plano, Texas, for the NJCAA national tournament May 12-17 at Collins County Community College.
GPC’s No. 1 singles player, Jerel Pleasant, received the GCAA 2013 Most Valuable Player award, and Mohamed “Reda” Nait Omar was selected Coach of the Year.
Sophomore Preston Samowitz provided the winning margin for the Jaguars, rallying to beat ABAC’s Michael Bailey 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-3 in the singles fifth flight, and then joining Eric Verdi to win an arduous No. 3 doubles match 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 over the Stallions’ Jordan Chastain and Parker Cuevas-Woodall.
Samowitz’ duel with Bailey extended into the lunch period, with most players and gallery gone to fast-food restaurants.
After struggling through the tight, but unsuccessful first set and winning the second set by two games, Samowitz appeared to get stronger at the end of the third set and finally put Bailey away with a series of smashes and back spins.
GPC controlled the singles flights, garnering victories from Samowitz, Pleasant (No. 1 flight), Shem Alexis (No. 3) and Gelawdiyos Haile (No. 6).
Pleasant rallied to edge Oliver Snaider 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a grueling No. 1 singles match. Haile and Alexis won their matches in two sets.
But after lunch Abraham Baldwin came on strong in doubles, winning the top two flights. Oliver Snaider and Ricky Symanski downed Pleasant and Haile 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, and Bailey and Dragomir Culjat defeated Chris Clark and Ben Dashiell 7-5, 6-2.
So, the Jaguars’ hopes came down to Samowitz and Verdi, and the veteran sophomores came through.
It represents the first region championship for Jaguar men’s tennis since 2001. GPC won NJCAA national championships four consecutive years from 1998 through 2001. Those were NJCAA Division 2 years, before the GPC tennis program moved to Division 1.
Two years ago the Jaguars received an at-large big to the NJCAA national tournament and finished seventh. Last spring they again received an at-large bid and finished in a third-place tie with three national champions (No. 1 and 2 singles and No. 1 doubles).
Abraham Baldwin won the GCAA championships those years, both times edging GPC by a narrow 5-4 margin.
In February GPC reversed that score and nipped ABAC 5-4 in a three-way match at Coastal College of Georgia. The Jaguars finished the 2013 regular season with a 7-3-1 record, but they remain undefeated against two-year competition. The losses and tie were to four-year institutions.