FAMU upsets SCSU for MEAC title
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
FAMU was so dominant in singles play that its men’s tennis team captured the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament championship, while No. 1 Courage Okungbowa was still on the court finishing up what would have been another singles victory.
Nevertheless, he held a 4-2 lead, and played as if he wouldn’t be denied. He was methodical, Rochelle Goldthreate, director of FAMU tennis program, recalled as she watched the upset of nemesis South Carolina State University unfold at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va.
“He was staying calm, staying steady and doing what he had to do on the court,” Goldthreate said.
The Rattlers locked up their first title since 2000 when Frederico Nani rallied from being down 4-3 in the final set for a 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over the Bulldogs’ Stanislav Baco.
The Bulldogs took the doubles point to open play, before the Rattlers began to roll to a victory that Goldthreate said she suspected going into the tournament.
“They went out there confidently and felt this was their year and they were going to take it,” she said. “Coming down to the last match, I felt like it was our time. It became a reality.”
FAMU took four of the five singles matches. SCSU’s only singles win was at the No. 6 spot, when Aleksander Stupar took a 6-1, 6-4 victory.
Karlyn Small and Walner Espinoza picked up straight-set victories in their singles matches for the Rattlers. Small defeated Jakub Vitek 6-3, 6-4 in the No. 3 slot, while Espinoza won in the No. 4 position 6-2, 6-4 over Soufiane Mouline, and Carlos Waitman, playing at No. 2, pulled out a three-set win 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 over Vladyslav Yanchenko.
Espinoza was named Outstanding Performer of the tournament, while Goldthreate took the Outstanding Coach honor.
FAMU’s Frederico Nani and Jalen Evans made the All-Tournament team. The Rattlers’ Okungbowa, Small, Espinoza, and Nani also were selected to the All-Tournament singles squad.