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MOBILE, Ala. — For the third time in four years, Xavier University of Louisiana men's tennis is the NAIA national runner-up after a 5-0 loss Saturday morning to Georgia Gwinnett in the tournament final.xula mtn2019Xavier University of Louisiana
2019 NAIA Men's Tennis Runner-Up

Men's tennis is the only XULA sport to reach the final of an NAIA national championship team event. The Gold Rush also finished second in 2016 and 2017 . . . and all the runner-up finishes were to Georgia Gwinnett.

The Grizzlies (27-0) won their sixth consecutive national title, finished unbeaten for the fourth consecutive season and won a dual match for the 109th consecutive time. They've never lost to an NAIA opponent — their three losses in seven seasons are to NCAA Division II teams; the most recent was April 3, 2015.

"Georgia Gwinnett is just too good for everybody — not just us," XULA coach Alan Green said.

Still it was a remarkable finish for the Gold Rush (17-9), the lowest seeded team (seventh) ever to reach an NAIA men's final. XULA got there with three victories against top-10 seeds: No. 10 Union (Ky.) in the round of 16, No. 2 Reinhardt in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Cardinal Stritch in the semifinals.

"It was a fun ride with our guys," Green said. "We weren't supposed to be in the final. It's a little more rewarding because of where we came from. Our guys did more than what I asked of them."

Federico Bonacia won in doubles and singles for Georgia Gwinnett. Bonacia and Ayed Zatar won five of the last six games in an 8-4 victory against Santiago Perez and Shaikh Abdullah on the first doubles court — that gave the Grizzlies a 3-0 lead — and he clinched with a 6-0, 6-3 victory against Ghassan Alansi on court two.

Georgia Gwinnett scored first at No. 2 doubles when Rafael Coutinho and Valentino Caratini defeated Pierre Andrieu and Alansi 8-2. XULA's Chris Anders and Gabriel Niculescu led 2-0 on court three before Federico Herrere Duran and Daniel Czepielewski rallied for an 8-5 victory.

"It took us some time to separate from a very good Xavier team," Georgia Gwinnett coach Chase Hodges said. "They played extremely well and hard early in the doubles."

Mika Kosonen won 6-1, 6-0 against Samir Chikhaoui at No. 6 singles. Four singles matches were unfinished, including Herrera Duran with a 6-3, 5-2 lead against Perez, who saved a national championship point. Herrera Duran and Perez are 1-2 in the most recent Oracle ITA/NAIA singles rankings.

XULA's Gabriel Niculescu led Jose Dugo 6-4, 1-3 when the Grizzlies clinched. It was the final collegiate competition for Niculescu, Anders and Andrieu, all seniors.

Our team showed great fight and left everything on the court," Green said.

Georgia Gwinnett tied the NAIA men's record for consecutive championships won. Lamar (1955-60) and Redlands (1966-71) also won six in a row.



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