TIFTON — Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s Stallions finished in a tie for eighth place at the NJCAA Division I men’s tennis championship last week. The Stallions accumulated 20 points to finish in a tie with New Mexico Military in the standings after a week of many positives and one negative, albeit a negative they turned around.
All six singles and all three doubles teams won on the first day of the tournament, which was held in Tucson, Ariz., at the Reffkin Tennis Center. Disaster struck on the second day, however, when Frederic Fibleuil and Lukas Zavrel were upset after entering the competition as the No. 1-ranked doubles team by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
“You work the whole season to be No. 1 and get a really bad draw,” said ABAC head coach Dale White. Eastern Florida State’s Adriel Azucey and Frederik Oervad won in straight sets, albeit narrow ones, 7-6 and 6-4.
The loss sent Zavrel and Fibleuil to the consolation bracket. From then on, they were unstoppable. “They came back,” said White and, “won the consolation, getting us eighth.”
In the consolation finals, Fibleuil and Zavrel defeated Barton (Kan.) players Guido Luna and Sebastian Pino, 7-6, 6-3.
On the singles side, Cristobal Quevedo had the best finish of any Stallion, advancing to the semifinals in Flight 2. Quevedo’s run through the tournament, said White, was his most pleasant surprise.
“He was coachable,” said White, who said he felt all season that Quevedo “had the ability to beat anybody.” That was evident in his upset win over Nils Michel of Eastern Florida State, who was the No. 2 seed in that flight.
“That was definitely pleasing to see,” said White of Quevedo’s tournament play.
Juan Pino Contoleon and Zavrel each advanced to the singles quarterfinals in their flights. Fibleuil, Gabriel De Sa and Phuong Pham all made the round of 16 in singles. In doubles Quevedo and Contoleon made the second round, as did De Sa and Pham.
Pham’s play during the tournament also made for some standout memories for White.
Pham’s season had been quite a tough one heading into nationals, with no wins in singles or doubles matches. At Tucson, he had a first round bye in singles and though he dropped his first match, Pham battled to the wire against his opponent in the consolation.
In doubles, the story was even better: Pham and De Sa won their first round match, 6-1, 6-0.
“It was great to see No. 3 doubles get their first win of the season,” said White. He praised the work Pham had put in during the season to raise his level. White said other coaches talked to him during the tournament, amazed that Pham had been seriously competing for only about a year.
In addition to ABAC’s accomplishments on the court, White picked up an honor of his own. He was named the Herschel Stephens Coaching Award winner, which is for outstanding service to the NJCAA Tennis Coaches Association.
The 2019 tennis season has ended at ABAC, but White’s summer is just beginning. He’ll be in charge of a tennis camp that runs from June 10-13. There is also the recruiting trail.
Pham will be the only returnee to the Stallions in 2020. The Fillies will only bring back Irene Romero and Nina Pigeassou. The Stallions might be quite young next year, though White is hopeful is getting in transfer students. He said he currently has six players lineup up for the Fillies and is working to get 2-3 more.