Tennis Teams Aim to Defend CIAA Titles
(Raleigh, NC) – After sweeping through their CIAA seasons without a misstep, both the Shaw men's and women's tennis teams are packing their racquets and heading to the CIAA Spring Sports Championships with the intention of defending their titles.
For the men, it would be the sixth straight championship, and mean that the four seniors on the team would have won the trophy all four years. For the women, the trophy would be the second straight, and a chance for the three seniors to go out on a high note.
"These are talented seniors and have worked hard to get here, and stay at the top," said Shaw Head Coach Sunday Enitan. "They have been focused on this goal and on going even farther – to regionals and beyond."
This year, the CIAA has abandoned the individual-based format where players would compete against others within their flights, and team winners only announced after points were tallied. This year, it is a bracketed team competition that is identical to the regular season matchups.
"This is much better for all the teams," said Enitan. "In the other system, if someone had a bad first match, they would be out and the team really hurt. Now, if one player has a bad match, the rest of the team can pick him or her up and the team continues."
For both the Bears and the Lady Bears, this format means they will only face opponents they've already defeated twice this season. The Bears completed their CIAA run 12-0 while the Lady Bears were 16-0. Overall, the men were 19-6 on the season and the women 19-4.
Both teams dominated their CIAA competition throughout the season. The closest score for the Lady Bears was a 6-3 victory over Virginia Union, where they defaulted on two matches due to the absence of a player. They won six matches 9-0.
The Bears' closest matches were 7-2 wins, against Johnson C. Smith and twice against Virginia State. They won eight conference matches 9-0.
Four Bears were undefeated in CIAA singles competition: Fabio Falcato, Milos Stankovic, Kalada Kienka, and Medhi Ben-Cheikh. The other two, Martin Faison and Antoine Jacobs each dropped two games within the conference.
On the women's side, five of the women went undefeated: Lolia Kienka, Fernanda Silva, Livia Oliveira, Evan Okafor and Xania Steele.
Entering the competition, the Shaw men are ranked fifth in the Atlantic Region by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, and the women are tied for tenth in the region. Shaw also has one regionally ranked player on each squad. Lolia Kienka is rated 11th in the Atlantic Region, while Fabio Falcato is ranked seventh. Strong showings will likely move them up in the rankings.
"The championship means a lot for the rankings. If we win the championship, our ranking will go up and we will go to regionals. That is our next goal," Enitan said.
The CIAA Spring Sports Championships, which include tennis, softball, baseball, golf, and track and field, begin Thursday, April 15 on the campus of Virginia State. The women's tennis team begins play at 9:00 a.m., with the men first taking the court at noon. Matchups have not yet been announced.
Photos: Fabio Falcato, Shaw men's tennis number one, will lead the Bears into the CIAA tournament.