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Greg Munoz

The Colonials added Clemson transfer Fernando Sala to their 2015-16 roster Wednesday, head coach Greg Munoz announced in a release.

Sala hails from Alicante, Spain and won Spain’s national doubles championship twice and the country’s singles crown once. During his run to the latter he broke into the top 400 of the International Tennis Federation rankings.

“Fernando is a very talented player,” head coach Greg Munoz said in a release. “I know he will be hungry to break into the top six, and I look forward to seeing what he can bring to our team.”

Sala was 15-8 overall as a singles player for the Tigers and 4-2 last season. Clemson finished the 2014-15 season ranked No. 66 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings but No. 11 out of 13 teams in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference.

Sala will be the seventh international player on the team, but the first Spanish player under Munoz. Six of eight returners from last season are from outside the U.S.

Sala was named to the 2013-14 ACC academic honor roll and is planning to major in international business during his time at GW.

The Colonials won the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship last season. They lost No. 1 overall player Francisco Dias to graduation but otherwise retained all top performers.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015 2:26 p.m.

Men’s tennis brings in new assistant coach

A successful tennis player often called “Rafa” will be joining the Colonials next season.

Okay, not the one you’re thinking of. But GW bolstered its coaching staff by bringing on former UNC-Wilmington No. 1 Rafael Aita as an assistant coach, the athletic department announced Thursday.

“I have been fortunate to have had two very strong assistant coaches in Rodrigo Briceno and Philippe Oudshoorn who were each able to help GW win two Atlantic 10 titles,” head coach Greg Munoz said in a release. “Rafa brings a passion for the game and strong playing skills that will push the guys on the court and has the experience of competing at the No. 1 spot for a perennial NCAA qualifier in UNCW.”

Aita graduated from UNCW in 2014 as the most decorated men’s tennis player in Seahawks history. He served as team captain in 2013 and 2014 and led the program to three Colonial Athletic Association titles from 2011-2014. He played in the No. 1 spot on the ladder in each of those title seasons.

He has both national and international experience, having played in two NCAA team tournaments, four NCAA singles tournaments and for Peru in the 2014 Davis Cup.

Aita and doubles parter Sam Williams peaked at No. 14 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national doubles rankings, and Aita reached the No. 17 spot as a singles player.

The Colonials won their second straight Atlantic 10 tournament in 2015 before ending their season at the hands of Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament. GW was ultimately ranked fifth in the Atlantic Region by the ITA.

“Working with Coach Munoz and GW men’s tennis is going to be a one-of-a-kind experience,” said Aita in a release. “I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to join a top-level Division I program at GW. The coaching staff has done a truly splendid job in the past years, and I am excited to learn from them and ultimately help the student-athletes have a great GW experience both on and off the courts.”

All-time program wins leader Francisco Dias graduated in May, but the Colonials return eight players to the squad for Aita to work with. He joins the program in August.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Marty Fenn.

After winning the Atlantic 10 tournament for the second straight year, the Colonials will face No. 12 seed Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 8.

GW learned its fate Tuesday evening at the NCAA selection show watch party, just days after defeating VCU in the finals of the league championship.

“Every one of the nine player squad contributed to this title,” said head coach Greg Muñoz. “Last year was special because it was our first indoor title. This year was special because we only had three upperclassmen and five freshman.”

The Colonials will head to Winston Salem to take on the top-25 opponent riding a seven-match win streak, but will have to pull their biggest upset of the year to advance. Florida and Pepperdine are also in GW’s region, and will play for the right to take on the winner of the Colonials’ matchup with the Demon Deacons.

GW seems to be peaking at the right time. The Colonials entered the season ranked No. 54 but fell out of the rankings in late February and were 6-12 through the end of March.

“Unfortunately, illnesses [hampered] us at the beginning of this year,” said head coach Greg Muñoz. “Fortunately we got healthy and were fully ready to play over two weeks before the conference championship, and we’ve shown that with a seven match win streak.”

The Colonials first knocked off Dayton to reach the semis, then downed the first-seeded Richmond Spiders to reach the championship. After knocking off second-seeded VCU, the Colonials had their second tournament title in a row, one that would once again send them to the NCAAs.

The team dispatched Dayton 4-0 on Friday, winning both the Nos. 1 and 2 doubles outings, 8-3. After sweeping through three singles matches to clinch the win, the Colonials advanced to take on a top-seeded Richmond squad. Reigning A-10 Performer of the Week and all-time singles wins leader senior Francisco Dias picked up a 6-2, 6-0 victory, while juniors Cahit Kapukiran and Danil Zelenkov took their matches 6-1, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-1, respectively.

On Saturday evening, the fourth-seeded Colonials took down the top-seeded Spiders 4-1, getting 8-2 victories at both the No. 2 and No. 3 slots. In singles play, Kapukiran continued his hot play with a 6-1, 6-2 victory to regain the lead for GW. Sophomore Julius Tverijonas chipped in a 6-1, 7-5 win and freshman Chris Fletcher defeated his opponent 6-4, 6-2 to give the Colonials the final point they needed for a berth in the championship against VCU.

“Richmond had a great year,” said Muñoz. “The top four [seeds] all had different seasons but were all capable of winning a title.”

Facing the Rams in the title match for the second year in a row, the Colonials started well, winning the doubles point behind the teams of sophomore Julius Tverijonas and Danil Zelenkov (8-5) and Dias and Chris Fletcher (8-3). The Rams won the next two points in the first singles slates, but Zelenkov eked out a victory in three sets (7-5, 4-6, 6-3) to even the match. A resilient Cahit Kapukiran gave the Colonials a boost with a 6-2, 7-6 (10) win after a long second-set tiebreaker.

After Kapukiran’s match, Dias closed out VCU’s Michal Voscek 6-3,4-6, 6-1 on center court to secure the Colonials’ fourth title in five years. Dias said he locked in when he heard the roar that went up after Kapukiran’s match, knowing the team was one point away from another championship.

“I was very aware [of the situation], which is something I like,” Dias said. “When Christos [Hadjigeorgiou] screamed ‘match on 6 boys’ and I realized I was the last match on at 5-1 up and serving, I felt a rush of relief because I was playing very well and I knew there was no way I was going to let that match go. It was truly a great feeling to be able to clinch for the title, on center court, on my last year nonetheless.”

The win marked the fifth title in program history and the fourth in the last five years. The Colonials had only won the title once, in 1979, before winning titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Heading into the tournament, Muñoz stressed the cohesive atmosphere that collegiate tennis provides, especially in GW’s small program.

“Teams are very small,” Muñoz said. “It takes a lot of sacrifice from the top players to the non-scholarship players to the ones that are building their games to play in the lineup.”

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Head coach Greg Munoz talks with senior Viktor Svensson during GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

Head coach Greg Munoz talks with senior Viktor Svensson during GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

Riding a five-game win streak in arguably its best season in program history, the men’s tennis team fell 4-1 to No. 28 University of South Carolina on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

GW fell behind early in doubles play, an area that had carried the team all season. South Carolina decisively overpowered the Colonials in the early stages.

Senior Nikita Fomin and sophomore Danil Zelenkov were quickly defeated by a score of 4-8. The other two teams in play – seniors Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen and junior Francisco Dias and freshman Julian Tverijonas – were forced to play from behind.

Dias and Tverijonas lost to South Carolina’s No. 30 ranked doubles duo Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov. Fighting back from a steep deficit, Dias and Tverijonas were able to send their match to a tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker, the Colonials jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but succumbed to an 8-4 run by the Gamecocks who would eventually take the match and the point. Thomsen and Svensson had their match suspended because South Carolina took the point.

With the first point awarded to the Gamecocks, the Colonials entered singles play with pressure to get back into the match and on the board.

“All the first sets were very close on every court,” senior Nikita Fomin said. “I don’t think [South Carolina] was expecting us to come out with energy in singles.”

The Colonials would win just one of their six opening sets, which came from Fomin at the No. 2 position (6-3).

Fomin would continue his strong play into the second set with a 6-2 win, earning the Colonials a point. Fomin’s singles win was the first NCAA point for the team in program history.

But the momentum was short lived as South Carolina took its second and third points at the No. 1 and No. 4 slots.

With their backs against the wall, the Colonials made a late surge by way of a tiebreaker win from Svensson in the No. 5 slot in the second set. But South Carolina would clinch the victory with a win against Thomsen at the No. 6 slot (6-4, 6-4).

“We definitely had our chances, but things didn’t quite fall into place,” Fomin said.

Though the team was disappointed with the day’s results, the season proved to be an overall success.

The Colonials ended the year with a record of 17-7, won their third Atlantic 10 Championship in four years and finished the season ranked as the No. 53 team in the nation.

“This has been our best season ever. We can’t be disappointed. It would have been nice to break into the second round of the NCAAs, but we’re getting there,” Munoz said. “There’s still more ahead for us.”

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Monday, April 28, 2014 11:10 p.m.

Men’s tennis earns eight postseason honors

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Fomin was named to the A-10 All-Conference First Team. Hatchet File Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown earlier this season. Fomin was named to the A-10 All-Conference First Team. Hatchet File Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

The Atlantic 10 recognized the men’s tennis team with eight postseason honors Monday after a season of consistent play that resulted in the program’s third conference championship in four years.

Though only fielding the minimum six players in their regular lineup, quality seemed to trump quantity as all six players came away with at least one award.

Junior Francisco Dias led the team, earning the title of the A-10’s Most Outstanding Performer. Dias went 17-10 in singles play this season, including four victories over nationally ranked opponents.

This marks Dias’ second year receiving the award, tying him for the most in program history with alumnus Matt Hane, who earned the honor in 2002 and 2004. Dias also earned a spot on the All-Conference First Team list.

Joining Dias on that roster was senior Nikita Fomin, freshman Julius Tverijonas and sophomore Danil Zelenkov. Fomin went 18-10 in singles play this season with his most memorable contribution coming by way of a championship-clinching win against VCU in the A-10 finals.

Tverijonas finished the season 13-6, proving that the lone freshman on the team was more than ready to compete. Zelenkov holds a team-best singles record of 21-7 as well as a current 18-match unbeaten streak.

Rounding out the lineup was the senior doubles duo of Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen, who were selected to the All-Conference Second Team. In singles play, Svensson finished the season 18-11 while Thomsen finished at 12-8. As a pair, the duo went 11-8.

The Colonials also had two selections to the all-academic team with Zelenkov and Thomsen, who hold a 3.96 and a 3.93 GPA, respectively.

The conference also gave a nod to head coach Greg Munoz, as he earned his third Coach of the Year award. In his eighth year at the helm, Munoz led the team to a No. 1 seeding in the A-10 Championships, its third conference title under his direction and a 17-7 record this season.

Up next for GW is the NCAA regional tournament. The Colonials will learn their seeding on Tuesday and prepare for the first round of play scheduled for May 9.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Rob Bartnichak.

Despite an early lead, the women’s tennis team fell to No. 2-seeded Saint Louis 4-2 Saturday in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Championships.

GW jumped ahead early in the match, winning the doubles point. The No. 1-positioned duo of senior Isabella Escobar and freshman Taylor Nederlander won 8-6, while the No. 2-positioned team of sophomore Christina Carpenter and senior Leah Pascarella also clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 victory.

Leah Pascarella hits an overhead shot earlier this season. | Hatchet File Photo

Leah Pascarella hits an overhead shot earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo.

But in singles, the Colonials were outplayed by a superior Saint Louis team that entered Saturday’s match on a 10-match winning streak.

Nederlander at No. 3 and Carpenter at No. 6 both lost their matches in straight sets, while Robins at No. 1 and Escobar at No. 5 dropped their matches in three sets. Only Pascarella at the No. 2 slot was able to defeat her opponent for the Colonials (3-6, 6-4, 6-4).

“We weren’t overconfident. We knew that we won the doubles point last time, too, and this was going to be another battle,” head coach Greg Munoz said. ”Saint Louis played well. We didn’t back down. It was a fight to the very end, and anything could have happened.”

It was a solid year for the program, which finishes the season 9-6 overall. Pascarella, who played her last match as a Colonial on Saturday, said this year’s team was the best she has played with since she joined the program in 2010.

“Out of my four years, we had the most talent on this team,” Pascarella said, adding that she expects the young returning Colonials team to improve.

GW will face a series of challenges heading into the next season. It will return seven players – and none will be seniors. Plus, Munoz said the team will likely have a demanding regular season schedule.

But sophomore Lana Robins said the Colonials can handle these tests.

“[We’ll have] a good freshman class, an improved returning sophomore class and our juniors are really gonna have to step it up and be leaders,” Robins said.

Munoz said the team is moving in the right direction as he tries to “change the culture of the program.” The Colonials have their sights set on a conference title, and Munoz said the program will continue to develop until it reaches that goal.

“Until we’re a top-75 [team], there is going to be improvements to make” Munoz said. “It starts with the culture and the work ethic and discipline.”

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This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Aaron Esparza.

For the No. 54 men’s tennis team, this weekend’s impressive pair of wins against local rivals, Georgetown and George Mason, weren’t unexpected, but they were important steps on the team’s journey for a top seed in the upcoming Atlantic-10 Tournament.

In Friday’s Senior Day matchup against Georgetown (7-11), the Colonials were propelled to an easy win by the mixture of emotions, clinching the meet early at the No. 2 singles spot. While the team collectively dominated in singles, freshman Julius Tverijonas and senior Ulrik Thomsen undoubtedly stood out with their straight sets wins.

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Senior Nikita Fomin hits a serve during GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

In doubles, with the match already won, the Colonials tested with new lineups – something they had been hesitant to do all season because of their lack of depth. The consistent No. 1 group of junior Francisco Dias and Tverijonas won, 8-4, but the experimental pairings of Thomsen and senior Sinan Ipeker, as well as Fomin and sophomore Azan Piperno proved to be less successful.

Overall, however, it was, “a really nice way to wrap it up,” said Svensson, describing his last ever home match at GW.

“It was a very special feeling to finish up the last match on the GW courts with a win and seeing my fellow seniors also winning,” Fomin said, “I was very happy to end on a good note. But to have the last match on the GW courts was a little bit sad so it was a mixed feeling.”

Senior Ulrik Thomsen serves the ball in GW's 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Senior Ulrik Thomsen serves the ball in GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The (5-2) victory put the team back in the win column after a ranked loss last week to Wake Forest last week.

Saturday’s win against George Mason (12-8) brought GW within one point of the Patriots in the tight Revolutionary Rivalry, 8-7.

In doubles play, the No. 1 duo of Dias and Tverijonas – No. 86 in the nation – were tested by George Mason’s Joe Hill and James Lange, but eventually took the win in a tiebreaker. Apart from that small hiccup, the Colonials easily took the doubles point with convincing wins at the No. 2 and No. 3 slots.

In singles, GW never faced any serious threat, with all six players winning in straight sets. In the end, the Colonials took the win 7-0 and moved to 14-6 on the season with a 3-0 record in conference play.

According to head coach Greg Munoz, the weekend’s wins will not raise the team’s position to a No. 1 seed in the A-10, but will help them solidify the No. 2 slot. These wins make the squad “mentally fresh,” he said, knowing that they are “playing our best tennis [of the season].”

If the Colonials maintain their No. 2 seeding, their first tournament match will be a Friday matchup at 1:00 p.m. in Charlottesville, VA next week.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza.

The men’s tennis team may have finally confronted its ceiling this weekend.

The No. 53 team in the nation showed its conference dominance through the first two games of the weekend, comfortably handling Atlantic 10 rivals Fordham and Richmond, 5-1 and 6-1, respectively. But in its loss to No. 21 Wake Forest, the Colonials also showed the vast difference between top 60 and top 25 teams.

During the victories, sophomore Danil Zelenkov extended his streak of unbeaten play to 12 matches, winning in straight sets both days.

Seniors Ulrik Thomsen and Viktor Svennson practice on the Mount Vernon Campus earlier this week. Hatchet File Photo

Seniors Ulrik Thomsen and Viktor Svennson practice on the Mount Vernon Campus earlier this week. Hatchet File Photo

On Sunday, the team traveled to take on No. 21 Wake Forest – easily GW’s highest ranked opponent of the season. The team knew they were up against a powerhouse, but one that had lost four of its last 10 matches.

According to head coach Greg Munoz, with the Demon Deacons playing their second match of the day, the game plan was to tire their opponent with “1000 percent effort, energy, and focus.”

The team showcased that effort early in doubles play, when the No. 76 duo of junior Francisco Dias and freshman Julius Tverijonas won a close tiebreaker, 8-7. However, the No. 2 pair of senior Nikita Fomin and Zelenkov were not as fortunate, finding themselves on the losing end of a similar tiebreaker, 7-8. In the No. 3 spot, the senior duo of Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen came up short against Wake Forest’s Adam Lee and Anthony Delcore, losing the set, 5-8, and giving away the doubles point.

Though the Colonials performed admirably, it was clear in singles play that the Demon Deacons were, simply, the more talented team. With a roster that boasted three nationally ranked players, Wake Forest secured the 4-0 win quickly with wins at the No. 1, 2 and 4 slots.

Despite the unbalanced results of the weekend, Munoz described his team’s situation as, “an unknown team that’s been steady in the rankings.”

GW (12-6) lost an opportunity to solidify its impressive season with a win against a top 25 team, but proved once more that they are still a threat to grab one of the top two seeds in the A-10 Tournament. The Colonials are now perfect in conference play, at 2-0, with less than two weeks remaining before postseason competition.

The Colonials will move on this weekend in their home finale against Georgetown Friday at noon.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aaron Esparza

In its first match since having it’s seven-game win streak snapped, the men’s tennis team not-so-surprisingly responded with a weekend of dominant play.

The Colonials took down Morgan State (1-8) and UMBC (9-7) by overwhelming scores of 7-0 and 6-1, respectively.

Despite starting out “a little sluggish” in the doubles match against UMBC, GW would find its rhythm midway through the match and turn up the intensity as play continued. The Colonials swept the matches, 8-4, 8-3 and 8-6 to take the first point.

During singles play, GW came out with the heightened energy and swept every match in straight sets. In the No. 1 matchup, junior Francisco Dias edged out Morgan State’s Duk-Young Park 6-4, 6-3. In the No. 2 through No. 6 matches, the most competitive result was a 6-2, 6-1 win from senior Nikita Fomin.

With Saturday’s dominating 7-0 sweep of the Bears, the team clearly looked to have rediscovered its confidence. Assistant coach Anthony Lee enthusiastically described the squad as “match tough, match ready, confidence ready, and ready to go to work tomorrow.”

Although Sunday’s matchup brought a much more formidable opponent in UMBC, it was the same story of dominance for the Colonials.

GW jumped out to an early win in doubles, with the three pairs comfortably handling the competition by scores of 8-6, 7-3 and 8-2.

In singles play, the No. 2 through No. 6 spots were once again convincingly won in straight sets. Senior Viktor Svensson, who was only serving at 50 percent according to head coach Greg Munoz, had an especially impressive win, considering the injury.

Freshman Julius Tverijonas had his first game-clinching point of the season, 7-5, 6-3, taking the weight off traditional upperclassmen closers, seniors Ulrik Thomsen and Svensson.

The only UMBC point of the day came from a determined Justin Carter against Fomin – 3-6, 7-6 and 10-8. But by then, the match was already out of reach at 6-0.

After this weekend’s success, the team has an almost two-week lull in competition before conference play. Munoz said the team will look to “sharpen up” doubles play in preparation for the approaching Atlantic 10 Tournament April 17.

Next on the schedule for the Colonials is a conference matchup against Fordham (3-9) at the Mount Vernon Tennis Center, Friday April 4th.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014 7:40 p.m.

Women’s tennis can’t keep up with VCU

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Rob Bartnichak.

The women’s tennis team fell to VCU on the road Saturday at the Thalhimer Tennis Center in Richmond, Va., falling by the score of 7-0.

The Rams won all doubles matches to get the early point, and then swept GW in the individual matches. Freshman Taylor Nederlander – competing in the No. 3 spot – would win four games in her match, the most by any Colonial on the day.

The loss brings the Colonials overall record to 4-5 and 2-2 in the Atlantic 10. The Rams came in having lost two straight matches, while GW had won four of its last five, but VCU showed why it was picked to win the A-10 at the start of the season.

“Going into the match, we knew VCU was at a higher level than any team in the conference,” head coach Greg Munoz said. “But I was happy with the way we competed.”

Nederlander lost her match 6-4, 6-1, while senior Leah Pascarella – playing in the No. 1 position – was defeated by No. 72 Cindy Chala 6-1, 6-1. Sophomore Lana Robins lost her match 6-0, 6-3, playing in the No.2 slot.

“I enjoyed the way I competed, but I had a lot of frustrating points,” Robins said. “We just need to take advantage of the opportunities and those big points.”

Despite the defeat, both Munoz and his players saw the match as an opportunity to develop. Despite VCU being at a higher level than his team, Munoz recognized that the Rams are also at a higher level than every other team in the conference. In other words, after seeing how his girls played, the score might have come out different today against other A-10 foes.

“I thought that if the women compete like they did today, we’re going to win every match this year,” Munoz said.

The loss to VCU gives GW back-to-back A-10 losses, as they have not won a conference match since defeating Massachusetts and Fordham in the first week of March.

The team is back in play Sunday morning at 11 a.m. on the road against James Madison. The Colonials next conference matchup will be against Duquesne March 30 in Pittsburgh.

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