Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics
SUMTER, S.C. – Chase Hodges wanted to see his men’s and women’s tennis teams make history this weekend at Palmetto Tennis Center, and after four unprecedented days at the USTA/ ITA National Small College Championships, that’s exactly what happened. In an event that saw the Grizzlies claim three of a possible four NAIA national championships, Kevin Konfederak and Jordan Cox provided a fitting exclamation point to the weekend as each earned an automatic berth to the USTA/ ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships next month.
Konfederak was the first get through, taking home the singles title in the Small College Super Bowl, and he’d combine with Cox to win the doubles crown just a few hours later. “This tournament performance is right up there with the team national championships,” Hodges said. “Everyone is going to know about us now when we go to New York. We know that we can play with the best teams in the country, and I think this fall is further proof of that. This was an incredible weekend, and I’m just trying to take it all in.”
The Small College Super Bowl represented the penultimate phase of the USTA/ITA national tournament schedule, and Cox and Konfederak will now take on some of the best players from the NCAA Division I ranks at the indoor championships, which will be played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Konfederak, who played in a pair of three-hour marathon singles matches on Saturday to advance to Sunday’s final, enjoyed a relatively quick match against Division II champion Jan Meyer, who hailed from Azusa Pacific. Konfederak raced out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set and cruised from there, picking up a 6-2, 6-2 decision in less than an hour.
“I felt great the whole match,” Konfederak said. “My forehand was working well all weekend, so that helped me a lot, and I was serving pretty well. I think I got a little bit better every day here. I knew that I was playing well, but I don’t think I expected to come out of the fall as the No. 1 player, so I’m trying to enjoy this moment.” “Kevin’s performance today was surgical,” Hodges said. “To beat a player like that in the way that he did is incredible. That’s the best singles match that I’ve seen Kevin play.
He survived the match with Jordan in the NAIA final, he survived the match yesterday with the junior college champion, and then he had a relatively easy final. When you can grind out results like that and put yourself in a good position, good things can happen.” Meyer finished the 2015 spring campaign with the No. 1 ranking in DII. Konfederak would return to the stadium court at Palmetto Tennis Center later in the day as he and Cox took on Concordia (N.Y.)’s Jui Mao and Ofir Ginat in the doubles event.
The Grizzly duo once again excelled, cruising to a 6-2, 6-4 victory to secure the crown. In retrospect, it was a victory last spring that foreshadowed the success that Cox and Konfederak experienced this weekend. In last May’s NAIA national championship match against Embry-Riddle, the Grizzly duo upended the top-ranked and 2014 Small College Super Bowl champion tandem of Deni Zmak and Jaime Sanchez-Canamares Rios. “Jordan has been talking to me about going to New York all summer and then when we got here in the fall,” Konfederak revealed. “We’ve practiced a lot together and it’s all worked out. I’m looking forward to it.”
“This is something that Kevin and I have been talking about a lot,” Cox affirmed. “I’m really proud of how Kevin and I played this whole weekend, and to be able to go to New York now is huge for us. I couldn’t be more excited.” The day marked another milestone in Konfederak’s already impressive fall. The Buenos Aires, Argentina, native was coming off a National Freshman of the Year campaign last spring, and he kicked things off with a run to the final at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships, which took place at the University of Georgia last month. His form continued into the South Region championships, where he lifted the singles crown, and he will now become the first-ever singles representative for GGC at the national indoor event.
“I don’t know if it’s possible to top what Kevin’s done this year,” Hodges said. “To come in and win a national title and freshman of the year, and then follow it up with national titles in singles and doubles? You can’t beat that. That’s almost like the Triple Crown, and then you throw a national sportsmanship award on top of that? It doesn’t get any better. I’m sure 20 years from now, I’ll still be talking about the 2015 calendar year for Kevin. It’s going to be hard to top.”
Play at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships will begin Nov. 13.