HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige today honored the Hawaii Pacific men's and women's tennis teams at the State Capitol in recognition of their stellar 2016 campaigns that culminated over the weekend at the NCAA Division II National Championships in Denver, Colo.
"I am proud to congratulate these outstanding young men and women on their tremendous accomplishments," Gov. Ige said. "They have finished in the top levels of their sport year after year and have never stopped striving to be the very best. The men have made it to the national tournament ten times since 2000 and made it to the finals the past three years. This title reflects well on their commitment, their university, and our state."
After coming up short in five trips to the National Championship title match since 2000, the No. 3 Hawaii Pacific men's tennis team was able to end its runner-up streak with a gritty victory over top-ranked Saint Leo (Fla.) University, 5-3, on Saturday.
As the Sharks (21-3) toppled the Lions (27-2) in the finale of the NCAA Division II Tennis Championships on Saturday at Metro State University's Regency Athletic Complex, the blue-clad squad handed Saint Leo its second loss of the season; HPU also defeated the Lions on March 19. The competition marked the third consecutive trip to the title match for the Sharks, who had finished as the runner-up five times since the turn of the century and were finally able to hoist the championship hardware.
"It was an unbelievable experience for our three seniors, I'm still speechless and am really happy for the team," said four-time PacWest Conference Coach of the Year Hendrik Bode who was named West Region Coach of the Year on Wednesday. "If they wouldn't have (rebounded for a strong singles performance down the stretch), we would have had no chance. They bought in to the team concept and that huge effort got us to where we wanted to be."
The Sharks women (18-6) battled through injuries all season and made it all the way to the national semifinals before falling to No. 3 Armstrong State, the eventual title winner. Head coach Lauren Conching guided the squad, as did assistant Nikola Petrov who, on Wednesday, was named West Region Assistant of the Year. HPU's Kristyna Hancarova was named West Region Senior Player of the Year, while Syna Kayser picked up West Region Rookie of the Year honors.
Throughout the season, HPU's men's squad relied on senior Thibaud Berland – the top-ranked singles player in the country and reigning Co-PacWest Player of the Year – who knocked off fourth-ranked Albert Barrosco-Campos 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday to help the Sharks' push towards the championship. Berland ended the season with a perfect 18-0 record that included 14 wins over ranked opponents and nine victories over foes ranked in the top 10 nationally.
At the HPU SHARKY Awards held in late April, Berland – who carries a 4.0 GPA – was named Male Athlete of the Year, Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Male Senior of the Year. The student-athlete also won the men's tennis Scholar Athlete and MVP awards.
Berland, who hails from Lusignan, France, teamed up with PacWest Freshman of the Year Alexander Meyer to form the No. 3 doubles tandem in the country. The duo finished the campaign with a 20-4 record, which included a 6-3 mark against top-10 opponents.
Meyer, the 13th-ranked player in the country, also excelled in singles play and posted a 14-2 individual record in 2016. Meyer on Wednesday was named West Region Rookie of the Year.
No. 20 Jaume Martinez-Vich, a senior from Spain, also earned a spot on the All-PacWest First Team. He finished the year with a 13-6 record and teamed up with Filip Dolezel to compile a 19-5 record in doubles action.
Jakub Hadrava, Dolezel, Torben Otto and Clemens Graute also contributed throughout the season, and the latter three posted singles victories on Saturday to help HPU secure the championship. HPU men's assistant coach Matus Mydla was named West Region Assistant Coach of the Year on Wednesday to complete the Sharks' impressive awards haul.