Rush, Nuggets fall to top-10 tennis teams from Georgia

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PENSACOLA, Fla. — Moses Michael was a double winner Friday for Xavier University of Louisiana, but Columbus State rallied to earn a 5-3 men’s tennis dual-match decision that snapped the Gold Rush win streak at five.

In the women’s dual, Columbus State beat XULA 5-0.

All four teams are top-10 nationally. XULA’s men (10-4) are ranked second in the NAIA, and the women (6-12) are ninth. Columbus State’s men (17-3) are ninth in NCAA Division II, and its women (18-2) are seventh.

Michael and Antoine Richard rallied to beat KP Pannu and Maciej Kierkus 9-7 — the only XULA doubles victory of the day — and Michael gave the Gold Rush a 3-2 lead against the Georgia team when he beat Zach Whaanga, regionally ranked in singles, 6-3, 6-3 on the second court.

But the Cougars then rattled off three straight singles victories, and Paul Sprengelmeijer clinched with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 decision against Karan Salwan at No. 3.

The other Gold Rush victory was on the fourth court, where Catalin Fifea cruised past Matei Avram 6-3, 6-2 and improved his singles win streak to nine. Fifea has not dropped a singles set in nearly two months.

“I was really impressed with Catalin Fifea and Moses Micheal in singles,” XULA coach Alan Green said. “Fifea has been rock-solid all year, and Moses is getting better each day.”

Michael won in doubles and singles for the second consecutive day. Prior to Thursday, the freshman from Kaduna, Nigeria, had been a double winner in only 1-of-12 duals.

Friday was the first time in 34 duals that Salwan failed to win in doubles or singles. The only other time he was shut out was in the 2016 opener at Louisiana-Lafayette — his first dual match with the Gold Rush. Salwan and Tushar Mandlekar’s 8-1 loss to Whaanga and Avram was the largest margin of defeat by a Gold Rush doubles team in a dual this season.

The Gold Nuggets dropped their fifth straight dual, and the Lady Cougars won their sixth in a row and 16th in their last 17. XULA’s best efforts were at No. 1 doubles, where newly paired Charlene Goreau and Emma Kranendonk lost 8-5 to fifth-ranked Beatriz Leon and Beatriz Lopez, and at No. 6 singles, where Sha’Nel Bruins was tied at 5 in the first set with Saravinder Pannu (KP’s older sister) when the dual was clinched and halted.

Goreau and Kranendonk trailed 2-0 and 5-3 before rallying to tie their match at 5.

XULA will play more NCAA D2 top-10 teams at 10 a.m. Saturday: West Florida’s top-ranked men and No. 7 women. Venue will be the same as Friday — West Florida’s Ralph “Skeeter” Carson Tennis Complex.

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Ed Cassiere

Ed Cassiere

Sports Information Director, Xavier University of Louisiana

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