Northwest tennis carried the momentum they have had all season into the 2018 ITA Regional Tournament in Oklahoma City over the weekend.
The men performed well in singles and doubles competition, with all but one Bearcat competitor winning at least one singles match, as well as three of the four doubles teams capturing at least one win in the tournament. The duo of freshman Fabien Calloud and senior Rahul Manoah made the biggest splash for Northwest in the doubles draw, as they advanced all the way to the semifinals.
On the women’s side, Northwest excelled in the singles bracket, compiling wins from sophomore Irene Recuenco, juniors Tess Lovig, Sara Grozdanovic, Julie Rinderknech, and Marta Ferando, and freshman Julia Aliseda. Aliseda was the top women’s competitor of the tournament, making it to the semifinals before falling to Jacqueline Engelbracht of Washburn (6-3, 6-2).
The biggest outcome of the tournament was that of sophomore Franco Olivia, who captured the ITA Flight A singles championship for NCAA Division II. The win by Olivia is the first ITA champion from Northwest since Romain Boissinot captured the crown in 2014.
Olivia was unranked entering the tournament, defeating stiff competition en route, the biggest win coming in the championship round against defending ITA champion Alejandro Valerezo Plaza of Washburn (6-4, 5-7, 7-6). Northwest head coach Mark Rosewell said it was one of the best performances he has seen in his 35 years of coaching.
“It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen,” Rosewell said. “For this young man to win that thing being unseeded makes it even more remarkable. I’m not sure I’ve seen anybody do that for any team, so just a fabulous performance.”
Former ITA champion and current Northwest graduate assistant, Boissinot, said it was a tremendous, yet unforeseen, victory by Olivia.
“It’s great, I wasn’t really expecting it to be honest,” said Boissinot. “I mean he’s great, he played amazing. I think he’s really a player who works on confidence.”
Olivia himself said that leading up to the ITA’s, he was focused on correcting mistakes and getting better as the season went on.
“At least two weeks before the ITA I started to practice in the morning and the afternoon,” Olivia said. “We played a few tournaments before the ITA and I tried to change the mistakes that I did in the last tournament. I tried to change first, my mind, and then try to have fun and give all that I have on the court.”
In the final match, Olivia began to deal with cramping issues in the third and final set. It was in that moment, with an ITA championship on the line, that Olivia received the final push he needed to capture the victory. He said that push came from his teammates, who were inevitably his motivation to become an ITA champion.
“In the third set I got a cramp in my leg, but with all my teammates, they were screaming ‘Let's go Franco,’ and so I kept playing and gave my best,” Olivia said. “They helped me a lot.”
Beating the defending ITA champion in Plaza and becoming one himself is a humbling feeling for Olivia, which he said still does not feel real.
“It feels good,” Olivia said. “I still don’t believe it yet, it feels weird but good. I really like playing tennis and try to give my best in every match, and I showed in the ITA I can play well.”
Northwest will finish the 2018 fall season in Rome, Georgia, where they will compete in the National Small College Tournament, with teams from Division II, Division III, NJCAA and NAIA coming to compete. Competition will begin Oct. 4 and will continue through Oct. 7.