NEW LONDON, Conn. – The top-seeded Mitchell College men's tennis team claimed its fourth consecutive NECC title on Saturday behind a 7-2 victory over second-seeded Regis College in the finals of the 2012 New England Collegiate Conference Men's Tennis Championship.
Mitchell (11-1 overall) clinched the match early, winning all three doubles points to take a 3-0 lead into the singles portion of the competition. The Mariners then earned the first two points of singles play to cement the victory.
Mitchell junior Rocco Devona (Waterford, Conn.) was named Tournament MVP after contributing wins at No. 1 doubles and No. 2 singles. He finished the tournament with a combined 4-0 record in both singles and doubles play.
Regis (13-7 overall) found itself in an early hole as the Mariners posted wins at No. 2 and 3 doubles to start the match. The duo of freshman Michael Beluch (Lynn, Mass.) and sophomore Andy White (Bozeman, Mont.) fought hard at the No. 1 spot and led 6-3 against Devona and freshman Rajan Bawa (Basking Ridge, N.J.). The Mariners didn't give in, however, and rallied to win six straight games to pull out an 8-6 victory.
In singles play, Devona didn't lose a game in his first set against White at the No. 2 position. His 6-0, 6-2 victory provided the Mariners with their fourth point of the contest, and senior Tyler Engleberg (Niantic, Conn.) brought the title home with a three-set win at the No. 3 spot. After losing the first set to sophomore Jeffrie Parrish (Framingham, Mass.), Engleberg rebounded and lost only two more games en route to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory.
With the match already decided, the Pride still fought hard and came away with two points. Beluch and Bawa—in a battle of the conference's best players—provided the closest match of the day at the No. 1 position. The two split regular season meetings, and Beluch edged Bawa in straight sets to win the rubber match 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3). Regis was also victorious at No. 6 as junior Mouhamed Diallo (Boston, Mass.) topped junior Randy Coons (Yonkers, N.Y.) by scores of 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.
Seniors Andrew Small (Westerly, R.I.) and Alexander Fusco (Saugus, Mass.) provided Mitchell's final two singles wins. Small bounced back from a first set loss to junior Sophorn Nop (Lowell, Mass.) at the No. 4 spot to win 5-7, 7-5, 6-1. Fusco cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 win at the No. 5 position over junior Matthew Smolko (Pelham, N.H.).
This season was the first that the NECC crowned its champion through a team tournament format. For the past three seasons, the squad with the best regular season conference record was deemed champion. Mitchell won the title outright in 2009 and 2010 and was co-champion with Lesley University in 2011.
All-Tournament Team (Singles)
Brian Piquette (Becker), Paolo DiPietrantonio (Lesley), Michael Beluch (Regis), Jeffrie Parrish (Regis), Rajan Bawa (Mitchell), MVP - Rocco Devona (Mitchell)
Andy White/Michael Beluch (Regis), Tyler Engleberg/Alex Fusco (Mitchell), Andrew Small/Chris McKeon (Mitchell)
Release courtesy of Mitchell College Sports Information