The men's tennis team celebrates after winning its ninth conference title in the past 11 years. The Bearcats beat UMBC in the championship match, 4-0.
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Binghamton men’s tennis continued its command of America East tennis with a 4-0 win over host and second-seeded UMBC in the championship match April 28 from the Retrievers Tennis Complex in Baltimore.
The conference title was Binghamton’s sixth straight and ninth in the last 11 years and advances the Bearcats to the NCAA tournament. It is one of the longest current title streaks of any team in any sport in the America East.
Binghamton men’s tennis (16-9) has drawn third-ranked Georgia (22-4) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 10. After winning the program’s sixth consecutive America East title, Binghamton’s prize was a first-time trip to Athens to face the reigning SEC champion Bulldogs.
“We knew it would be a tough team whoever we drew ... but we didn’t think it would be the third-ranked team in the country,” said head coach Adam Cohen, whose team watched the NCAA Selection Show in the Events Center TAU Bearcat Room. “It is what it is and we will have to prepare over the next week and a half to be ready for Georgia. We look forward to the challenge and will come out with a lot of energy and give it all we have.”
The Bearcats will be making their ninth trip to the NCAA tournament in the last 11 years. The team, which features two freshmen in the top singles positions and just one senior, earned their bid with a 4-0 victory over UMBC in Sunday’s America East Championship. Binghamton beat the host Retrievers for the fourth straight year in the finals.
“It’s an honor to play such a high seed,” senior Bastian Bornkessel said of the NCAA matchup with Georgia. “You go for a reason ... so we will be ready and will give it our best.”
Georgia has four nationally-ranked singles players in its starting lineup, including the sixth-ranked player in the nation. They are coming off a 4-0 win over seventh-ranked Tennessee in the SEC championship match. It was Georgia’s second straight conference title. The Bulldogs will be making their 35th overall appearance in the tournament and 30th straight. Georgia reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 2012, and has reached the finals in three of the last seven seasons. In all, the Bulldogs own six NCAA championships, most recently winning in back-to-back seasons in 2007-08.
Head Coach Adam Cohen’s squad, which had two freshmen at the top of the lineup and five underclassmen playing singles, overcame its youth and a home-court Retrievers advantage that threatened to even the playing field. But the Bearcats came out and grabbed the opening doubles point with two lopsided matches at first and second doubles. It was more of the same in singles as the Bearcats finished off UMBC in the first three completed matches.
“We came out with a lot of energy today from the first doubles point on,” Cohen said. “Our doubles play was probably the best its looked all season and from there we really put pressure on them, winning the first set in five of the six matches at singles. Every year is really so special and its just a testament to all the hard work these guys put in. We have a really young squad this season, so for guys like Sid (Hazarika), Alex (Maisin) and Elliot (Hureau) to step up at the top of our lineup has been really huge.”
Senior Bastian Bornkessel, the team’s lone senior who has seen nothing but titles in his four-year collegiate career, paired with freshman phenom Sid Hazarika for an 8-3 win at the top spot. The win was Bornkessel’s 70th career doubles victory, which ranks fourth in program history.
Junior Ruben Haggai and freshman Eliott Hureau combined for an 8-3 win at second doubles, beating their teammates at No. 3 to the wire to clinch the point and end doubles play. The third tandem of sophomores Robin Lesage and Ismael Dinia were up 6-4 when their match was halted.
In singles, Haggai polished off a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 5 to make it 2-0. Dinia won at No. 4, 6-3, 6-3 and Hazarika finished off the win with a 7-5, 6-0 triumph at first singles. Haggai, who stretched his win streak to 14 matches, was named the Most Outstanding Player. He went 2-0 in singles at the tournament and also posted a doubles win in the final to join his brother Alex Haggai as back-to-back Most Outstanding Players. The elder Haggai, a volunteer assistant this year while working toward his MBA at Binghamton, won the top honor last spring.
“Ruben deserved the award,” Cohen said. “He was our first guy off the court in singles today and before that, had a strong doubles match. He’s had a good run of late (14 straight wins) and was an important part of our championship run this weekend.”