Tennis Teams Fight to the Finish In Sun Belt Championships

Thomas Jilk

Women’s Team

The Eagles came into the Sun Belt Championship in New Orleans as the No. 7 seed, matched up in the first round on Thursday against No. 10 seed and rival Appalachian State. The Eagles edged out the Mountaineers, 4-3, in the first match, moving them into the tournament quarterfinals.

On Thursday, App. State opened play by snagging the doubles point after winning two out of three of the doubles sets. Georgia Southern was able to counter by eventually prevailing in the top four singles matches. GS senior Giulia Riepe came back in No. 1 singles after losing the first set against Mountaineer sophomore Heidi Swope. Riepe took the next set, 7-5, and the third set, 6-2, to complete her comeback and clinch the match for Georgia Southern.

According to, GS head coach Michele Stanford called Riepe’s performance “an incredible match with a huge comeback to get the clinch.”

On Friday, the Eagles were matched up with the formidable No. 2 seed South Alabama Jaguars, who had beat the Eagles once handily earlier in the year.

The Jaguars were simply too much for GS, beating the Eagles 4-0 after taking the doubles point and subsequently winning three singles matches, ending the match at 4-0 before the other players finished.

The Eagles ended their season 11-12 after a streaky season. Argentinian sophomore Emilia Bujan led the Eagles in singles victories on the season, going 12-8. The duo of Bujan and junior Ella Monsey led the Eagles in doubles play, going 11-6 in that regard this season. Ripe and Mariana Ranzahuer are the graduating seniors, and everyone else will return next season for a team that looks to contend and make another run in the 2018 Sun Belt Championship.

Men’s Team

The Eagles opened Sun Belt Championship play as the No. 6 seed against the third-seeded defending conference champion Mavericks of UT-Arlington. After losing the doubles point, the Eagles needed four singles victories to make up for the doubles loss.

Senior Dani Casablancas, juniors Eddie Landin and Artemie Amari, and freshman Diego Finkelstein came through for the Eagles by winning their singles matches and the match overall. Amari came back after losing his first set in No. 6 singles, eventually taking the last two sets, 7-6, 6-1 and clinching the dramatic quarterfinal victory.

The Eagles moved on to the semifinals, where they faced the No. 2 seed South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday. The semifinal proved to be another tight match. The Eagles took the doubles point this time led by the duos of senior Chris Kerrigan and Casablancas, along with Landin alongside Finkelstein.

In singles, four matches featured set tiebreakers, showing how evenly matched the two sides were, even though South Alabama was ranked higher at No. 47 nationally.

GS freshman Stefano Di Aloy fought valiantly with the match at 3-3, but eventually fell in the final set, 5-7, to South Alabama junior Olivier Gingras. This brought the Eagles’ season to a close with a final record of 19-12.

The Eagles have promise on the men’s side as well, with only two graduating seniors (Kerrigan and Casablancas). Other Eagles will need to step up, though, to replace the contributions of the two senior leaders.

Junior No. 1 singles player JC Alcala will be back for the Eagles, along with their season leader in singles victories, Di Aloy. Di Aloy went an impressive 19-8 in singles this season, usually performing in the No. 3 singles slot. Kerrigan and Finkelstein anchored the doubles game for the Eagles all season, going 8-6 in doubles play as a duo. Kerrigan’s doubles presence is perhaps the most important piece for the Eagles to try to replace going into next season.

After going undefeated (12-0) at home for the first time since 1983 and making the Sun Belt semifinals for the first time, the Eagles 2018 hopes are high, as they should be. Head coach Sander Koning and his team will try to carry the grit, talent and competitiveness that defined the Eagles all season into and throughout next season.