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April 6, 2010
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - After a three-month season and nearly three years of waiting for the moment, the No. 54 USC Upstate men's tennis team showed a lot of its impatience on Tuesday afternoon. As soon as head coach Alessandro De Marzo walked back onto the courts where the team wrapped up the first Atlantic Sun Conference men's title in any sport, he was doused by the remaining water in one of the coolers on the court.
Minutes later, as the men's team waited for the women's match to finish, senior Jack Roux couldn't wait for De Marzo to put his cell phone down before he struck again with the water from another cooler. Of course, after a 6-1 win that helped the Spartans wrap up the first outright league title in school history, you can forgive the Spartans' impatience.
"There's no words to describe how happy I am right now," senior Javier Tori said. "Being a senior and going out by winning this thing is amazing. They have a good team. We beat them because we were inspired to win this thing. It was our chance and the only chance we had to win a title. Everyone went out to play and that's what we did."
For Coach De Marzo, who won his second regular-season title in six years with the men's tennis program, his smile appeared when asked how it felt to be conference champions. "It feels really good," he laughed. "It started last fall when we only had four players. Jack, Javier, Renzo (Airaldi) and Edgar (Rodriguez) had a bad fall and they came back in the spring, with the new additions, and they just got along so well. That really helps them."
As usual, it was Upstate's senior trio that helped pace the Spartans (18-5 overall, 10-0 overall) to the win, with seniors Renzo Airaldi and Javier Tori posting a 9-8 (8) win over regionally-ranked Davy Sum and Dominik Kaniewski at No. 1 to clinch the doubles point and Tori, the program's winningest player, that clinched the match with a two-set win at No. 3 singles.
The Spartans started strong by winning all three doubles matches, with sophomores Edgar Rodriguez and Ramiro Blanco posting an 8-3 win over Beto Mondini and Loukas Wallaart at No. 3 before Airaldi and Tori's win clinched the point. Almost simultaneously, Roux and junior Marco Linconir added an 8-6 win over Josep Baro and Larbi Lamzouri at No. 2.
In singles play, Upstate continued to control, with Blanco posting a 6-0, 6-3 win over Wallaart at No. 5 and Roux wrapped up his career with a 6-2, 6-3 win over David Clavera at No. 4. After a loss at No. 2, Tori wrapped up the match with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Mondini.
"Amazing," Roux said. "We finally did it. I'm so happy. The team was so focused because we knew we had to win to win the conference, but for me, it was hard because it was my last match. I had a lot of feelings, and it was hard to concentrate and to play, but at least I won my doubles and singles."
With the match clinched, Linconir posted a 6-4, 6-2 win over Kaniewski at No. 6 and Rodriguez closed out Upstate's campaign with a 7-6 (2), 6-4 win over regionally-ranked Davy Sum, making him 8-1 on the season in A-Sun matches, all played at No. 1.
The match was the final one in the careers of Airaldi, Roux and Tori, the winningest class in school history, having helped the Spartans post a 78-19 (.804) record during their careers, along with reaching the NCAA Division II quarterfinals as freshmen and winning the A-Sun title as seniors.
"It's not only going to be tennis that I will miss with them," De Marzo said. "It's the type of people they are, what they bring to the team. It's not only on the tennis court and it is going to be very hard to replace them."
Airaldi finished his career with 55 singles wins (fifth in school history) and 84 doubles wins (second) to make up his 139 career combined wins (third). He was a Division II All-American as a freshman and has racked up Second Team All-A-Sun honors in each of the last two years.
Roux finished his career with 77 singles wins (second in school history) and 67 doubles wins (fifth) to make up his 144 career combined wins (second). He earned All-A-Sun Second Team honors as a junior when he won a school-record 46 combined wins.
"It was so fun," Roux said of his time at Upstate. "I feel so sad that this era is over. This team is amazing. I have a lot of good memories of this team. We are like a family. Alessandro, (and assistant coaches) Tami (Matheny) and Julio (Peralta) are amazing."
Tori finished his career with school records 81 singles wins, 86 doubles wins and 167 combined wins. He is the lone player in school history to win 20 singles matches in all three years and 20 doubles matches in all four years. He also set an A-Sun records for most player of the week awards with three this season and five in his career.
Tennis Match Results #54 USC Upstate 6, Campbell 1 Singles competition 1. Edgar Rodriguez (UPSTM) def. Davy Sum (CAM) 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 2. Larbi Lamzouri (CAM) def. Renzo Airaldi (UPSTM) 6-4, 7-5 3. Javier Tori (UPSTM) def. Beto Mondini (CAM) 6-3, 6-1 4. Jack Roux (UPSTM) def. David Clavera (CAM) 6-2, 6-3 5. Ramiro Blanco (UPSTM) def. Loukas Wallaart (CAM) 6-0, 6-3 6. Marco Linconir (UPSTM) def. Dominik Kaniewski (CAM) 6-4, 6-2 Doubles competition 1. Renzo Airaldi/Javier Tori (UPSTM) def. Davy Sum/ Dominik Kaniewski (CAM) 9-8 (8) 2. Jack Roux/Marco Linconir (UPSTM) def. Josep Baro/ Larbi Lamzouri (CAM) 8-6 3. Edgar Rodriguez/Ramiro Blanco (UPSTM) def. Beto Mondini/ Loukas Wallaart (CAM) 8-3 Match Notes: Campbell 14-7, 6-4 A-Sun USC Upstate 18-5, 10-0 A-Sun; National ranking #54 Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (5,4,2,3,6,1)