The UH-Hilo men’s tennis team defeated Azusa Pacific 5-1 in the NCAA Division II West regional on Sunday at Fairmount Orchid, reaching the round of 16 for the second consecutive year.
The Vulcans (13-4) next play at the NCAA national championships, May 21-25 in Florida. Last year, they lost to Indianapolis in the first round.
It was the third match between the Vulcans and Cougars, who won the first time in Azusa, Calif. UHH won the rematch at the PacWest tournament.
APU won the first two doubles matches to claim the team point. After UHH won the first match on court one, the Cougars won on courts two and three, both in tiebreakers.
The Vulcans got the first team point back when Alessandro Giuliato remained unbeaten on the year with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Ryan Nuno. Martin Soukal claimed the next Vulcan point with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Ronald Kang. The PacWest Freshman of the year improved to 14-1 on the year, while Giuliato is now 13-0.
“It was a tough match, like we knew it would be,” said interim head coach Kallen Mizuguchi. “We needed a big effort from every single player, and we got it.”
Up 2-1, Arturo Dell`Eva added to the pressure on the Cougars with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Jesse Haas to give UHH a 3-1 lead, leaving just one victory needed. But in the other three matches, the Cougars had won the first set.
The Vulcans began to battle back in the heat. Vaclav Slezak, Luca Checchia and Chun En Wu rallied to win their second set as the heat began to take its toll. On court four, APU’s Leyton Bohren began to cramp and tried to continue while Wu took the second set. On court six, Checchia rallied back to take the second set after dropping the first.
Checchia took down Marnix Pluim in the third set, after the Cougar fought off four match points, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. At almost the exact same time, Wu focused through the distractions to win over the wounded and game Bohren, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. The only shame was that the match on center court between two of the top players in the west, Slezak and Jakob Schnaitter, ended unfinished at 5-7, 6-2, 2-1 with Slezak up a break in the third.
The Vulcans will heal up and get back to practice this week before heading to Florida over the weekend. It is the second consecutive year that UHH has advanced to the sweet 16. Last season, they defeated Point Loma in the preliminary round and dropped a tight match to Indianapolis at the national tournament site in Arizona.
#15 Hawaii Hilo 5, #21 Azusa Pacific 1
1. #15 Vaclav Slezak (UHH) vs. #20 Jakob Schnaitter (APU), 5-7, 6-2, 2-1 (40-15), UNF
2. #26 Alessandro Giuliato (UHH) def. Ryan Nuno (APU), 6-1, 6-1.
3. #47 Martin Soukal (UHH) def. Ronald Kang (AP), 6-3, 6-4.
4. Chun En Wu (UHH) def. Leyton Bohren (AP), 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
5. Arturo Dell`Eva (UHH) def. Jesse Haas (APU), 6-4, 6-1.
6. Luca Checchia (UHH) def. Marnix Pluim (AP), 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
1. Slezak/Soukal (UHH) def. Schnaitter/Haas (APU), 6-4
2. Nuno/Bohren (APU) def. Giuliato/En Wu (UHH), 7-6 (7-3).
3. Kang/Ethan Smith (APU) def. Checchia,/Alan Cincunegui (UHH), 7-6 (7-3)