SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Making their fourth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the Bryant University men's tennis team travels to Norman, Okla. to take on No. 14 Oklahoma in the first round on Friday, May 12 at 1 p.m.
The Bulldogs (12-13, 4-0 NEC) received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after capturing their fourth-straight Northeast Conference Title. Bryant surrendered only two points in regular season matches against conference foes, earning the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.
The No. 1 Bulldogs defeated No. 4 Fairfield Dickinson, 4-2, in the semifinals before upending No. 2 Saint Francis U., 4-1, for the second-straight season to reclaim the championship. The Bulldogs became the fourth team in NEC history to four-peat.
Under 11-year head coach and five-time NEC Coach of the Year Ron Gendron, the Bulldogs were put to the test this season, facing the likes of Brown, St. John's, MIT and Columbia. The Bulldogs were edged out, 4-3, by then No. 22 MIT, after the Bryant swept the doubles point and captured two more at No. 2 and 6 singles behind juniors Luke Lorenz (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Jorge Ortiz-Garcia (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico). Lorenz was named Second Team All-NEC at two, while Ortiz-Garcia earned First Team All-NEC at six.
The pair of redshirt sophomore Matt Kuhar (Smithfield, R.I.) and Lorenz went 2-0 at No. 1 doubles in the postseason, receiving First Team All-NEC. Sophomores Artur Jakubowski (Dallas, Texas) and Michael Plutt (Weston, Fla.) went 1-1 at three and were named to the conference's second team at No. 3 doubles. Independently, the sophomores earned their second-straight NEC honors, as Jakubowski was dubbed First Team All-NEC at No. 3 singles and Plutt Second Team All-NEC at No. 5 singles.
As the most decorated Bulldog, earning two NEC Player of the Week honors and two NEC Player of the Month accolades, Kuhar finished conference play with a perfect record, propelling him to NEC Player of the Year. The All-NEC First Teamer sits 19-6 on the season and 11-3 at No. 1 singles, becoming the lone Bulldog to reach the ITA round of 32 in the fall. The redshirt sophomore will enter the NCAA Tournament on a seven-match winning streak.
Freshman Guido Argentini (Boca Raton, Fla.) was the only fresh face in the Bulldogs' championship match lineup, but the rookie didn't shy away from the opportunity, solidifying Bryant's fourth-straight conference title with a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 4 singles. The freshman's gutsy performance and consistent seasonal play elected him to the NEC All-Rookie Team, as well as First Team All-NEC at four.
Argentini finished the season 11-9, including a 4-0 tally at one and 3-1 mark at four. The lefty closed out the regular season, earning NEC Rookie of the Week honors after helping the Bulldogs secure wins over Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart. Argentini will enter the first round of the NCAA Tournament on a four-match winning streak.
The Sooners also enjoyed a very successful season, posting a 15-10 overall record and 2-3 mark in the Big 12. Oklahoma defeated Texas, 4-3, in the Big 12 quarterfinals, before falling to TCU, 4-1, in the semifinals.
The Sooners claimed the No. 14 spot in the country after defeating three top-10 opponents, including Northwestern, Florida and Texas. Oklahoma is no stranger to the biggest stage in college tennis, having finished as the national runner-up in each of the last three season.
The host's lineup in the league semifinals included four nationally ranked singles players and two national ranked doubles teams. Spencer Papa leads the team at 18th in the country, playing in the second slot, while No. 1 singles Andrew Harris ranks 30th in the country. The No. 1 doubles pair of Jerry Lopez and Reese Stadler claim the 33rd spot.
Aside from the team tournament, Alex Ghilea and Papa both earned at-large selections for the 64-player singles bracket while Papa and Harris will team up in the 32-team doubles tournament.
The Bulldogs have fallen, 4-0, to each of their previous three NCAA competitors and Gendron is hoping to steal a point from the Sooners, as Bryant prepares for its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bulldogs and hosting Sooners are set to face off on Friday, May 12, in Norman, Oklahoma at 1 p.m.