LAS CRUCES, N.M. – UMKC men's tennis (14-8) won its first ever Western Athletic Conference championship in thrilling fashion as the Roos outlasted top seed and host New Mexico State (17-6) 4-3 on Saturday afternoon at the NM State Tennis Center. Senior Amaury Navette (Paris, France) won an epic 3-set match in an 8-6 tiebreaker on the No. 4 singles court to clinch the conference title, earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. For the first time in UMKC history, both the men's and women's teams are conference tournament champions.
Navette overcame Sergi Espias 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (8-6) to break the 3-3 tie between the squads, giving the Roos their first WAC Tournament championship. The third set tiebreaker was tied 3-3, 4-4, and 6-6 before Navette pulled ahead and won the match on a double fault by Espias. He was joined in celebration by his running teammates and coaches seconds later.
“What an amazing day. I told both teams I wanted two championships for my recent 50th birthday and they delivered,” head coach Kendell Hale said. “Our seniors were awesome today and led so well. Our captains, Mike [Psarros] and Uldis [Gaismins], showed how bad they wanted it. In the clinching match, Amaury battled so hard. This match could have gone either way. We pulled out the nail biter and broke the 4-3 curse against New Mexico State.”
Previously, the Roos lost 4-3 to NM State in last year's WAC championship match and had lost to the Aggies by that close score in the three previous meetings.
In doubles action, Uldis Gaismins (Riga, Latvia) and Navette defeated Mauri Benitez and Stijn de Haan 6-1 in the No. 2 contest. Airam Castellano (Gran Canaria, Spain) and Mike Psarros (Athens, Greece) clinched the doubles point for the Roos with a 6-4 victory over Luis Flores and Christofer Goncalves on the No. 1 court. The duo improved to 14-1 on the season.
Gaismins defeated Flores 6-0, 6-3 in No. 2 singles action. Psarros beat Asmar 6-3, 6-4 on the No. 5 court. Kruse fell 6-1, 6-4 to de Haan in the No. 3 match and the Roos held a 3-1 lead. Castellano fell 6-3, 6-2 as NM State trimmed the margin to 3-2. The Aggies tied the match 3-3 when Benitez defeated Pham 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the No. 6 matchup.
UMKC will learn its NCAA Tournament opponent and destination during the NCAA Selection Show on Tuesday at 4 p.m. CT. Details for a watch party for both the UMKC men's and women's teams will be released shortly.
– UMKC –