Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 6, 2014

Back to nationals

Bluefield State wins third straight Atlantic Regional

BLUEFIELD — It’s a three-peat for the Bluefield State College Big Blues tennis team.

The Big Blues blanked Shaw University 5-0, Monday at Bluefield City Courts to win the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region and advance to the national tournament.

Starting off with a trio of wins in the doubles competition, the Big Blues never faltered. The No. 1 doubles team of Jacob Carey and Piotr Kruk beat Charles Silva and Sergio Cuartas 8-5. At No. 2 Aziz Yuldashev and Vishwesh Sinha topped Garfur Sirojiddiron and Andre Monti 8-4 and the No. 3 doubles team of Conner Pickering and lad Catlan stopped Bach Tran and Juan Sanchez 8-3 to give the Big Blues a 3-0 lead headed into the singles competition.

“I thought we got off to a really strong start,” said BSC coach Louis Belt. “The doubles wins set the tone, put us up 3-0 and when we went out there in singles, we were playing well.”

The Big Blues needed only two singles win to claim the match and those came as No. 1 Carey beat Silva 6-2, 6-2 and at No. 3 Yuldashev downed Tran 6-1, 6-1. The rest of the matches were halted at that point but Bluefield State held the lead in the remaining four.

At No. 2 Kruk was leading Cuartas 6-3, 2-4. No. 4 Sinha was ahead of Sanchez 6-4, 2-0. No. 5 Anthony Braem was on top of Sirojiddina 6-2, 4-2 and Pikering led Monti at No. 6, 6-4, 2-2 when play was halted.

The match was BSC’s first since April 13 and that was a concern of Belt’s as the Big Blues entered play.

“I was a little nervous about the layoff. I thought we might be a little rusty,” Belt commented. “I thought we were focused and played a good match. Shaw has a good history and I knew they were a good team. They’ve been CIAA champs 10 years in a row, been to nationals. I knew it was going to be a tough test. We responded and played a good match.”

Belt praised the effort of his team and thanked supporters and boosters.

“It’s hard to do anything at a high level three times in a row. To three-peat as Atlantic Region champions, go to nationals, be one of the final 16 teams in the country for a third straight year I think is a remarkable achievement,” Belt said.

“It’s a complete team effort that involves the school and the community. Everybody I come in contact with is responsible and a part of this victory for us. I want to give a special recognition to the Skewes Foundation. With their support we are able to play in an extra tournament, or do a few extra indoor practices, or just a few little things that maybe separate us from being a good team and a championship team.”

The win was the 100th of Belt’s coaching career at Bluefield State against 49 losses. Playing this season as an independent, the Big Blues played every team in the top seven of the Atlantic Region with the exception of Edinboro (Pa.) and did not suffer a loss. The team has not lost to a school in the region in the past three seasons.

“Regardless of how familiar you are with tennis, you have to respect the achievement of what we have been able to accomplish,” Belt said.

Next for the Big Blues is a trip to the Sunshine State of Florida. The team will compete again on May 4 in the NCAA Division II championships at Almonte Springs, Fla.

“We drew the No. 2 team from the Central Region which will be either Nebraska-Kearney or Southwest Baptist,” Belt said.

“I think it’s a good thing for us. Two years ago we were a little bit overwhelmed, our first time being there, then we had last year. I think we really have a chance and that has been a goal of ours. I think going down there and being able to hopefully win a match or two would be great for us.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com or Twitter @bdtredd.

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