Decatur, AL—The Marion Military Institute Tigers captured the 2015 Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) Region XXII Tennis Championship in tournament play held on Friday and Saturday at Point Mallard Park's Jimmy Johns Tennis Center. The men's team is now a four-peat champion, winning titles in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
The Tigers procured five titles in the seven championship matches that they participated in on Saturday morning and afternoon. The Tigers pounced on three singles championships in the morning (Morgan Hale, Andrew Wright, and Javier de Claire) and two doubles championships in the afternoon (Wright/Hale and de Claire/Kaiser De Leon).
Andrew Wright produced the first championship of the day with his sterling play on court 3. Playing nearly flawless tennis, Wright trounced Joe Smith of Faulkner State Community College, 6-1, 6-0. Morgan Hale finished next by polishing off another Faulkner State player, Andrew Morton, 6-2, 6-4, on court 2. The third singles championship for MMI went to Javier de Claire on court 5. Trailing 3-0 in the second set to Gadsden State's Jacob McAllister, de Claire held on tenaciously and eventually evened the set at 6-6, forcing a 12-point tiebreaker. That is when de Claire went into championship mode, drilling brutally struck shot after shot into the corners to secure the tiebreaker, 7-3, and the match, 6-2, 7-6 (3).
The Tigers lost two heart-stopping matches at No. 1 singles and No. 4 singles, with Kaiser De Leon losing to two-time ACCC Most Valuable Player, Dallas Teague, 7-6 (4), 0-6, 6-4, and Patrick Ryder falling to Jordan Younghouse, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
In the afternoon doubles matches, the Tigers dug themselves into horrendous holes from which they had to extricate themselves. The No. 1 doubles team of Hale and Wright lost the first five games in blitzkrieg fashion to Teague and Atticus Bolling of Faulkner State but managed, miraculously, to survive and triumph, 9-7.
Things didn't look too much better on court 2. De Leon and de Claire slipped to an early 3-0 deficit and held on to win, 9-7, despite De Leon's experiencing severe leg cramps late in the match. Clinging to a slight 8-7 lead, De Leon had to serve out the match. Barely able to launch the ball off his racket, De Leon served every which way known to man—underhanded, regular, and sideways. The scrappy and inventive De Leon managed to get his serves into play and, in a pivotal moment during his service game, knocked a return down the line for a winner, thus saving the day and the match, 9-7.
In MMI's third doubles match of the afternoon, the Gadsden State duo of Younghouse and Mike Bizilia eked out a 9-7 win over Marty Birchmeier and Patrick Ryder.
"I couldn't be prouder of the boys than I am now," Coach Wright said after the match. "The boys played extremely well and competed even better. I was proud of the way they fought all day long. Even when play wasn't going their way, every last player fought tooth and nail. They played with a lot of heart and a lot of courage today. At the end of the day, that's all you can ask for. I am happy for each and every one of them. Congratulations, boys! Well played."
The Tigers now head to the National Junior College Athletic Association 2015 Men's National Tennis Championship, which will be held at Collin College in Plano, TX. Play is scheduled to begin on Monday, May 11 and continue through Friday, May 15.