NCCU Men Runner-Up at HBCU National Championships
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. – Junior Gabriel Cucalon and sophomore Maksym Konovalov won the top doubles championship in guiding the North Carolina Central men’s tennis team to a second-place finish out of 11 teams in the 2017 HBCU National Tennis Championships hosted by the Southeast Metro Athletic Council at the South Fulton Tennis Center from Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 14-17.
NCCU finished in a three-way tie for first place with Jackson State and Bluefield State at 18 points apiece, but had to settle for runner-up honors based upon head-to-head tiebreaker rules. The Tigers were awarded first by going 4-2, while the Eagles took second at 4-4 and the Big Blues finished third with a 3-5 mark in the tiebreaker.
Cucalon and sophomore Theofanis Kontopoulos made runs to the championship matches of their respectively singles flights to help aid NCCU’s bid at the team title even with just five Eagles competing over the weekend.
The doubles title was secured by Cucalon and Konovalov with a flawless 4-0 record in the A Flight. The duo posted a pair of 8-3 victories over the top tandems from Alabama A&M and Hampton before knocking off the top-seeded pair team from Bluefield State in the semifinals by an 8-4 margin. Cucalon and Konvalov finished off the title run with a narrow 8-7 triumph over the second-seeded squad from Tennessee State.
Cucalon was the defending singles A Flight champion at the HBCU National Championships and was named the top seed as the reigning champ. The Ecuadorian won three consecutive matches in straight sets over foes from Virginia State, Hampton and Shaw for a chance to successfully defend his title in the championship match. However, Cucalon was narrowly edged 7-6, 6-4 by second-seeded Alexander Rudeco of Bluefield State to settle for second place.
Kontopoulos had to win four straight bouts to earn his spot in the singles B Flight championship match. He only lost six games over his first two matches before upsetting top-seeded Ignacio Pulido (Bluefield State) in the quarterfinals in a dramatic 7-6, 6-7, 10-8 battle. Kontopoulos’ fourth win the semifinals was against a fellow MEAC rival from Florida A&M. The Greek then took the first-set in the title affair before Bluefield State’s Giorgi Datashvili rallied for the victory (2-6, 6-2, 6-1).
Datashvili also needed three-sets to eliminate Konovalov (0-6, 7-5, 10-8) in the quarterfinals. Konovalov got into the win column twice before facing Datashvili with straight-set wins over Alabama A&M and Howard.
Sophomore Brooks Campbell secured more points for the Eagles by advancing to the semifinals of the singles C Flight. After a bye and a no show, Campbell claimed a straight-set victory over Jackson State before losing to the eventual champion from Tennessee State in a three-set contest (2-6, 6-1, 10-2).
Sophomore Pablo Juez Torres was the fifth NCCU player to compete. He went 0-2 in the C Flight.
Doubles action also witnessed Campbell partner with FAMU’s Hema Hasona for two victories in the doubles B Flight before losing to the top-seeded team from Xavier in the semifinals.