WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia – No. 1 seed and heavy favorite UNCW is headed back to the CAA finals after stifling No. 4 James Madison, 4-0, in the semifinals of the 2014 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Tennis Championships early Saturday.
The 46th-ranked Seahawks were forced indoors to William & Mary's McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center, but the change had little effect. UNCW reeled off its eighth straight win and increased its record to 14-6 by taking down the Dukes in easy fashion.
"It was only our second time playing indoors this year and we handled it very well," said a pleased seventh-year Head Coach Mait Dubois, the 2013 CAA Coach-of-the-Year. "JMU had already played a match in the tournament, but we got off to a good start in doubles and put in a very professional performance."
Capitalizing on an opening round bye, the Seahawks reached the CAA title match for the fifth time in the last six years. UNCW is seeking its fourth CAA crown after winning in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
In the first of two semifinals, UNCW won the first two matches off the court in doubles to claim the early point and then wrapped up the proceedings with three dominating singles victories. It represented the only meeting between the two teams this spring.
UNCW's No. 2 tandem of Pedro Mol and Kaue Pereira dismantled JMU's Maxi Branth and Alex Berdnikoff, 8-2, to give the Seahawks a quick advantage in doubles and the No. 3 team of Zach Hublitz and Christiaan Van der Burgh defeated Sebastian Salinas and Brett Moorhead by an identical score to help the Seahawks nail down the point.
The Seahawks kept up the pressure in singles when the top two players in the lineup, Mol and talented two-time CAA Player-of-the-Year Rafael Aita, won right out of the gate.
Mol, a senior from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, routed Sebastian Salinas, 6-2, 6-1, at No. 2 singles and Aita, ranked 49th nationally, topped Robert Stirling, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 1. Aita owns a career singles mark of 63-17, second all-time at UNCW and just two shy of the all-time record set by Kinshuk Sharma from 2007-11.
Junior Kaue Periera then clinched the match for the fourth time this season when he rolled to a 6-3, 6-0 decision over JMU freshman Brett Morehead at No. 4 singles.
DuBois added, "Pedro and Kaue turned in very lopsided performances. They got up on their opponents and played a very complete match. They were also the first off the court in doubles."
UNCW will face the winner of today's other semifinal between host W&M and the College of Charleston in the championship match Sunday at 10 a.m. The Seahawks stand 3-1 lifetime in the CAA finals.
"In the championship, it's about staying focused and managing the intensity of the match," said DuBois. "We want to be the team setting the tone. That's when we're at our best."
2014 CAA Men's Tennis
April 18-20, 2014 – College of William & Mary – Williamsburg, Va.
Friday, April 18, 2014 – Quarterfinals
#2 College of Charleston 4, #7 Delaware 0
#3 William & Mary 4, #6 Hofstra 0
#4 James Madison 4, #5 Drexel 0
Saturday, April 19, 2014 – Semifinals
#1 UNCW 4, #4 JMU 0
#2 College of Charleston Vs. #3 William & Mary
Sunday, April 20, 2014 – Championships
10 a.m. – #1 UNCW Vs. #2 College of Charleston/#3 William & Mary