MOBILE, Ala. - No. 3 Vanguard faced a worthy, albeit understaffed, opponent in sixth-ranked Xavier (La.) (15-8) in the 2013 NAIA Men's Tennis National Championship quarterfinal on Thursday afternoon at the Mobile Tennis Center. The Lions bested the Gold Nuggets 5-2 despite dropping two doubles' points early. With the win, Vanguard adds another tally to its perfect 24-0 slate and maintains bragging rights as the nation's lone unbeaten team.
"This is a huge victory for Vanguard men's tennis and I feel that our guys deserve to be in the semi-final," head coach Mattias Johansson said. "Today after losing two doubles and struggling there, they showed how tough they can be if needed. To get three relatively clear wins in a timely matter is just another demonstration of this team's strength."
The Pride struck gold before the match began as the five-man Xavier squad was forced to forfeit third doubles and sixth singles, giving Vanguard a 2-0 lead to start the day.
Xavier, accustomed to playing down, quickly brought the match to even with a pair of 8-5 points at first and second pairs.
If the Blue and Gold were nervous heading into individual play, it did not show, as No. 4 Yagor Kryvaruchka and No. 5 Daymon Johnson quickly polished off their respective opponents to bring Vanguard within a point of victory. Kryvaruchka was first to finish, taking down XULA's Viktor Svoboda (7-5, 6-1) while Johnson trounced Benjamin Brading (6-2, 6-2).
With the crowd's support on his side, Roger Muri was able to seal the deal, posting a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Xavier's Nikita Soifer.
"Yagor played one of his best matches of the season and, again, DJ and Roger are so solid," Johansson said. "I gambled a little bit by resting Lukas 'The Legend' at number three with the hope of keeping some of our guys fresh for the semi-final and I am glad that it worked out in our favor!"
The Legend will most likely return to the court on Friday.
"I am confident that doubles will be better tomorrow, since we have no other choice," Johansson said. "We will certainly do whatever we can in order to reach our first final ever!"
The highest that Vanguard has ever placed in the tournament is third. The Lions have not been one of the final-four teams standing since 2004.
Second seeded Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) (20-3) is next on the schedule for Vanguard. AUM topped Graceland (Iowa) in the second round and Cumberland (Tenn.) in the quarterfinal to net its berth into the 2013 semis. The Warhawks' last appearance in the semifinals was in 2011.
Fourth-seeded Westmont also earned a spot in the semi-final round of the tournament. The Lions defeated the Warriors in both regular season Golden State Athletic Conference matches as well as in the conference tournament championship. Westmont (13-10) will face top-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) (22-2) on Friday. The Embry-Riddle Eagles have advanced to the semifinals in every national championship since 2005.