The Elon University men’s tennis team is the Southern Conference Tournament champion after defeating Furman University 4-1 on Saturday, April 19.
“This team has fought hard all year and worked hard, I’m proud of them,” Elon head coach Michael Leonard said.
The Phoenix jumped ahead by taking the doubles point for the third time this SoCon Tournament. Juniors Stefan Fortmann and Juan Madrid won first at No. 3 doubles with an easy victory 8-2 victory over sophomore Ben Horst and senior Alex Christ. But, Furman leveled soon after thanks to sophomore Matt Browne and senior Joel Cook. The duo defeated Elon senior Cameron Silverman and junior Jordan Kaufman 8-5 at No 2 doubles.
After splitting the first two matches, the doubles point would come down to the winner at No. 2 doubles. Junior Brian Kowalski and sophomore Robert Lindgren clinched the point for the Phoenix with an 8-5 win over freshman Adam Steryous and junior Jacob Behal after falling behind 4-0 early on.
“To comeback (like that), it’s the make of a champion. That was a momentum changer for us right there,” Leonard said.
Silverman regained the lead for Elon with a 6-1, 6-2 straight sets win over Steryous at No. 1 singles.
“He played great singles today,” Leonard said. “He was very engaged from the first point and he got on top of (Steryous).”
Furman quickly answered, as freshman Juan Sheppard edged out Kaufman at No. 5 singles in straight sets 6-4, 6-3. But Kowalski came up with an answer of his own to make it 3-1 in favor of Elon. The junior earned a 6-2, 6-3 straight sets victory over Cook at No. 4 singles.
Fortmann clinched the victory and the championship for the Phoenix with a win at No. 2 singles over Browne. The junior won the first, but dropped the second. Fortmann regained his composure and won the third set easily to come away with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 win.
For the Phoenix, this marks an impressive 2014 campaign where it won all 13 matchups against Southern Conference opposition including a 9-0 run in conference play.
“We won the regular season last year and that wasn’t really the guys’ goal (this year),” Leonard said. “We wanted to go to the tournament. They were jacked up the whole time we were here, and the big thing was not getting too excited or too nervous.”
With its tournament crown, the Phoenix receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tennis Championships which runs May 15-26. But, Elon will have a long layover before they find out who they will face.
“We’re looking forward to finding out, working hard, and getting ready to try and do some special things in (the tournament) starts up,” Leonard said.
The selection show airs live on Tuesday, April 29 on NCAA.com.