Knowles victory advances XU to NAIA second round
May 12, 2009
MOBILE, Ala. — Cameron Knowles was refueled,
refreshed and resilient Tuesday, and that helped the Xavier University of Louisiana
men's tennis team defeat Oklahoma Christian 5-4 in the opening round of the
NAIA National Championship at Copeland-Cox Tennis Center.
Knowles' 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 No. 5 singles victory over Oklahoma Christian's
Henson Adams advanced the 18th-ranked Gold Rush (17-6) to a second-round matchup at 9 a.m. Wednesday
against top-seeded and three-time defending champion Auburn Montgomery.
Xavier's first appearance at nationals was a roller-coaster ride. The Rush led 3-1
after Mario Myles' 6-0, 6-0 victory against Maxim Salitra at No. 6 singles but needed victories from
freshman Steffen Giles-Osborn and Knowles in the final two completed matches to edge
the 16th-ranked Eagles (9-6).
"I thought (Knowles) was done after he lost that second
set," Xavier coach Alan Green said. "But there's a heat rule at nationals that gives
the players a 10-minute break if they split the first two sets. Cameron used every
second of that break to find food, eat Skittles and get back into shape."
Knowles never lost serve in the third set, broke Adams'
serve in the final game and won on the fifth match point.
"Knowles stayed on top in the third set," Green said of
the junior from Omaha, Neb., and Central High School. "It was the gutsiest match I've
seen him play since he's been at Xavier."
Xavier won two of three doubles matches, including Mike Green
and Terry Richardson's 8-6 victory over Florian Thies and Thomas Van Cauter, the NAIA's
sixth-ranked doubles team. It was the first time this season that Green and Richardson
had been paired.
Oklahoma Christian won the top three singles flights,
with Van Cauter beating Green 6-4, 6-3 and Esteban Flores defeating Richardson 6-3, 7-5
in matchups of top-50 NAIA singles players.
Giles-Osborn defeated Thies 6-2, 6-4 at No. 4 for
his team-leading ninth consecutive singles victory of the season.
Xavier is the first Gulf Coast Athletic Conference
men's tennis team to win in the first round of nationals since Spring Hill in 2003.
The Rush also set a school record for season victories, exceeding its 2005 mark of 16.
Auburn Montgomery (18-2) will be a familiar opponent. The Senators
defeated the Rush 6-1 on March 12 in the AUM Invitational and beat the Rush twice in 2008,
including 5-0 in the semifinals of the NAIA Region XIII Tournament to end Xavier's season.