CHAMPIONS: Men's Tennis Upends Merrimack 5-4, Earns First NE-10 Crown

MIDDLETON, Mass. – Senior Alex Mukdaprakorn (Hartford, Conn.) pulled out a 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4) win at No. 4 singles as second-seeded Southern New Hampshire University took a thrilling 5-4 decision over No. 1 seed Merrimack College in the final of the 2014 Northeast-10 Men's Tennis Championship Saturday at the Northeast Tennis Center.  The Penmen, who secured their first-ever NE-10 title after reaching the final in 2011 and 2013, improve to 18-5 and earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division II championship.  The Warriors, who were denied in their bid for a third-straight Northeast-10 tournament title, are now 13-8, but expected to earn an at-large bid when the NCAA field is announced Monday night.

Mukdaprakorn was named the championship's Most Valuable Player, while Juan Arango-Campo (Armenia Quindio, Colombia) and Mitch Dobek (Westfield, Mass.) were named to the All-Championship Team.

SNHU's win snapped a string of 34 straight wins by Merrimack over Northeast-10 opponents during the regular season and NE-10 Championship dating back to the start of the 2011-12 season.  It also snapped a 10-match win streak in the series between SNHU and Merrimack, with the last Penmen win over the Warriors having come in the 2004-05 season.

Mukdaprakorn's three-set victory capped a roller-coaster match that saw Southern New Hampshire fall behind 2-1 after doubles before capturing wins at the top three singles flights to take a 4-2 lead.  Merrimack took victories at No. 5 and 6 singles to tie the match, leaving the match between Mukdaprakorn and Vince Bellino as the one to decide the Northeast-10 title.

Mukdaprakorn won the first set 6-2 and led 3-0 in the second set before Bellino rallied to tie the match 6-6 and force a tiebreaker.  Bellino was able to post a 7-4 win in the tiebreak and appeared to have momentum by building a 3-0 lead in the third set.  With the Warriors having already taken the first set at Nos. 5 and 6, it started to appear that the Warriors would take home their third straight title.

Hobbling as the match neared the three-hour mark, Mukdaprakorn broke Bellino twice to tie the match 3-3, before Bellino broke Mukdaprakorn's serve to go up 4-3.  Bellino broke Mukdaprakorn to go up 5-4 and hold serve for the title, but Mukdaprakorn came back to break Bellino and tie the set 5-5.  This time, Mukdaprakorn held serve to go up 6-5.

Bellino was able to hold serve to force the second tiebreak in as many sets for the pair.  With both players cramping and hobbling, Bellino jumped out to a 4-2 lead before Mukdaprakorn reeled off five straight points to give Southern New Hampshire the title.

Dobek tied the match for SNHU by earning a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles over Matt Pronesti after falling behind 4-1 in the first set.  Mike Wallace (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) made it 3-2 after he posted a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 3 over Chris Barnhart, and Arango-Campo made it 4-2 with a 6-4, 7 6 (7-1) win over Miguel Belfort at No. 2.  Jimmy Barnhart took a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 5 and Nick Majewski a 6-1, 6-1 triumph at No. 6 to tie the match.

Arango-Campo and Mukdaprakorn picked up SNHU's point in doubles, recording an 8-4 win at No. 2 over Miguel Belfort and Bellino.  Dobek and Wallace dropped an 8-5 decision at No. 1, while the Warriors also prevailed at No. 3 by an 8-1 count.

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So. New Hampshire 5, Merrimack 4
04/26/14 at Middleton, Mass. (Northeast Tennis Center)

Singles competition

1. Mitch Dobek (SNH) def. Matt Pronesti (MER) 6-4, 6-2

2. Juan Arango-Campo (SNH) def. Miguel Belfort (MER) 6-4, 7-6 (7-1)

3. Mike Wallace (SNH) def. Chris Barnhart (MER) 6-4, 6-4

4. Alex Mukdaprakorn (SNH) def. Vince Bellino (MER) 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4)

5. James Barnhart (MER) def. Evan Eaton (SNH) 6-0, 6-0

6. Nick Majewski (MER) def. Mark Dobek (SNH) 6-1, 6-1

 

Doubles competition

1. Matt Pronesti/Chris Barnhart (MER) def. Mitch Dobek/Mike Wallace (SNH) 8-5

2. Juan Arango-Campo/Alex Mukdaprakorn (SNH) def. Miguel Belfort/Vince Bellino (MER) 8-4

3. James Barnhart/Nick Majewski (MER) def. Evan Eaton/Mark Dobek (SNH) 8-1

 

Match Notes

So. New Hampshire 18-5; Regional ranking #9

Merrimack 13-8; Regional ranking #4

Northeast-10 Championship - Final

Merrimack is #1 seed, So. New Hampshire is #2 seed

T-4:30 A-50