Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

May 15, 2011

Twice is nice

Blazers get revenge on Barry, win their second national championship


ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. — It was a great day for the Valdosta State Blazers.

Valdosta State’s men’s tennis team won the Division II national championship on Saturday. The Blazers defeated Barry 5-2 in the championship match at Sanlando Park, near Orlando.

It was the Blazers’ second national championship. The 2011 championship trophy will join the 2006 trophy in Valdosta State’s trophy case.

“It was very exciting,” Valdosta State head coach John Hansen said. “It’s a great team. You can’t ask for a better bunch of guys.”

“I am just completely happy that we did it,” said Valdosta State’s Philip Pakebusch, the Division II National Player of the Year. “I cannot describe how I feel. There’s no words. I am just happy and excited.”

“This means a lot to us to win the national championship,” added senior Daniel Dueren.

It was truly a team effort for the Blazers. Five different Valdosta State players won either a singles match or a doubles match on Saturday.

“It was a total team victory,” Hansen said.

Valdosta State went 21-1 this season.

On Saturday, Valdosta State grabbed an early lead by winning two of the three doubles matches. The Blazers’ No. 1 doubles team of Dueren and Christian Hansen and their No. 2 doubles team, Pakebusch and Luis Loeffler, both came out on fire.

Pakebusch and Loeffler won seven straight games and built a 7-1 lead, on their way to an 8-2 win over Barry’s Marco Mokrzycki and Quentin Vachez.

“We came out pretty strong, and we just played good,” Pakebusch said. “We made the important points, and we won 8-2. We played very well.”

Dueren and Christian Hansen won the first five games of their match, built leads of 5-0 and 7-1 and won their match 8-3 over Emanuel Fraitzl and Max Wimmer.

“It was huge (to win two doubles matches),” Coach Hansen said.

Barry’s Sergio Velez and Ollie Lemaitre won the No. 3 doubles match 8-6 over Bernhard Wallner and Konstantin Kutschenko.

With a 2-1 lead after the doubles matches, the Blazers needed to win three of the six singles matches to become national champions.

Barry’s Romain Costamagna tied the match with a 6-1, 6-3 win over VSU’s Otto Lenhart at No. 6 singles.

The first sets of the other five singles matches were all close. Four of them were decided by tiebreakers, and Dueren won his first set 7-5.

Kutschenko won his first set tiebreaker, then dominated the second set of his No. 5 singles match. He won the first four games of the second set, then after Lemaitre won a game, Kutschenko won the final two games and closed out a 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 victory, putting the Blazers back on top, 3-2.

“(Kutschenko) has had a great year at No. 5,” Coach Hansen said.

Christian Hansen earned the Blazers’ fourth victory. He battled through a tough first set and won the tiebreaker 7-4 over Mokrzycki. Early in the second set, Hansen broke Mokrzycki’s serve. After that break, he held serve the rest of the match, and won 6-4.

“Christian just beat a great player,” Coach Hansen said.

Like Kutschenko and Christian Hansen, Loeffler won a first set tiebreaker, 8-6, in his No. 4 singles match against Vachez. In the seventh game of the second set, Loeffler broke Vachez’s serve, then won the next game as well to take a 5-3 lead.

About two or three minutes after Christian Hansen won his match, Loeffler reached match point. On match point, Vachez tried to hit a return, and Loeffler watched it sail wide for the final point. Loeffler was victorious — and the Blazers were the national champions.

Immediately after the match was over, Loeffler’s teammates rushed onto the court to celebrate. A dogpile ensued on the court, and the Blazers spent several minutes celebrating their championship. After Coach Hansen’s interview with a television station was done, the players dumped a cooler of water on him.

Because VSU had already wrapped up the national championship, Pakebusch and Dueren’s matches were not completed. Pakebusch had split the first two sets with Fraitzl at No. 1 singles, while Dueren won the first set against Wimmer in the No. 2 singles match.

During the trophy presentation, VSU graduate assistant coach Tobias Fimmel was chosen to introduce the team. While Pakebusch is the Blazers’ actual No. 1 singles player, Fimmel introduced every player as VSU’s No. 1 player, which was fitting, because, as their coach later said, all of them played a part in this national championship.

“We had a great team,” Coach Hansen said.

After the trophy presentation, the Blazers continued their celebration. They posed for pictures with the trophy. They invited the huge crowd of Blazer fans onto the court for pictures. Then they packed up their vans — and their newly-earned trophy — and left Sanlando Park to continue their celebration well into the night.

A year ago, VSU and Barry had staged a dogfight at Sanlando Park for the national championship, which was ultimately won 5-4 by Barry. On Saturday, they met again for the title — and this time, it was the Blazers who walked away as the champions.

The championship was a great way for VSU’s four seniors — Pakebusch, Dueren, Lenhart and Frank Sickman — to end their VSU careers.

“It’s a really big thing. It’s the (highlight) of my college career,” Pakebusch said.

“I am so glad I was able to win a national championship with this team,” Dueren said.

During his acceptance speech, Hansen thanked the fans who came to Altamonte Springs to support the Blazers. A large group of people drove down from Valdosta to cheer for their hometown team, including several members of the VSU athletic department and most of VSU’s women’s tennis team.

“I don’t know if we could have done it without all the support we got from the community. It was great,” Coach Hansen said.

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