By ROY ALLEN
Seward sports information director
After reaching the NJCAA National Tournament yet again in 2011 the Seward County Saints Men’s Tennis team has a 15th place finish to boast about going into next year. The Saints finished the tournament with 15 points, just 1.5 points away from a 12th place finish after a 10th place finish at the 2010 tournament.
The Saints No. 1 singles player Laercio Lobo struggled in a draw with some of the nation’s best players, dropping his first match in straight sets 6-0, 6-0 to Oliver Gilbert and then his consolation bracket match 6-2, 6-0 to 4th seeded Mbonisi Ndimande to end his tournament. Nathan Nelmes took on the field in the No. 2 bracket and lost by matching 6-4, 6-4 scores in his first match to Andrew Barnett before dropping down to the consolation bracket where he was 1-1 with a win over Jonothan Franz 6-2, 6-0 and a loss to Joan Valls 6-2, 2-6, 10-2.
The Saints No. 3 player for the tournament was Felipe Cruz who won his opening round match over Matt Canelon 6-3, 6-1 before falling to 4th seeded Pete Tomason 6-2, 6-2 to finish him 9th in the tournament. Raphael Machado was also a 9th place finisher after beating Joey Nylund 6-1, 6-0 in the first round before dropping his match in the round of 16 6-1, 6-1 to Taylor Hardy. Cristiano Mendes was a 6-3, 6-0 winner in the first round over Luke Wilson and played possibly the match of the tournament for the Saints in his second round contest where he fell to Rene Martinez 7-6 (4), 7-5 to place 9th in No. 5 singles.
Seward’s top point getter most of the season, Lucas Izkovitz was again the Saints top performer at the National Tournament. In No. 6 singles play Izkovitz defeated Mitch Peters 6-1, 6-0 and Jose Cobo 6-2, 6-0 to make his way into the final 8 players in the draw. In his quarterfinal match Izkovitz split the first two sets with 2nd seeded Rafael Bugiga 6-0, 1-6 before dropping the final set to the eventual National Champion 6-3 to finish his week in 5th place.
In the top pool of doubles pairs Lobo and Nelmes were first round winners over Barnett and Holton 7-6 (3), 6-3 but ran up against the top seeded and eventual tournament winners Kante and Lemtouni and lost 6-1, 6-1 to end their run. Cruz and Machado didn’t start their No. 2 doubles play how they would have liked with a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Clark/Rowe but bounced back to make an incredible run through the consolation bracket where they beat 5th seeded Reynolds/Taylor 6-2, 6-2, Canelon/Nyland 6-3, 6-2, and Olsen/Ramdin 7-6 (6), 6-1 to reach the consolation finals.
In the finals they met up with their second ranked opponent and did the same thing they did to their first victims, beat them as 6th seeded Marroy/Yepez fell to the Saints duo 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 to give Seward the consolation bracket championship.
Izkovitz/Mendes grinded out a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Montgomery/Wilson in the first round but would go down 6-3, 6-4 to 3rd seeded Bugiga/Raffaelli to end their chances at a title.
Seward was 6-8 in singles play but were 6-3 in doubles action to finish in the top 15 yet again at the National event.