DeLAND, Fla. – The final matchup of the Atlantic Sun Men’s Tennis Championship Thursday saw No. 3 UNF defeat No. 6 Belmont, 4-1. UNF enter Friday’s match versus No. 2 Stetson one victory closer to its first postseason league title after the Ospreys’ defeat of the Bruins at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center on the campus of Stetson University.
Head coach Igal Buberman’s team enters postseason play after completing a four-year transition to Division I where the Ospreys have the opportunity to experience the championship for the first time. UNF made the field of six and now sit two wins away from their first NCAA Tournament after the Ospreys defeated the Belmont Bruins in a tough 4-1 victory.
The culmination of the win for UNF Thursday comes from the sacrifice of five years of hard work and dedication. Even though postseason hopes stood out of reach due to NCAA reclassification rules, UNF knew one day it would vie for a league title.
“We were actually looking forward to this moment for five years,” Buberman said. “We had to make sure that we were going to make the transition and be strong enough to be a contender with the other schools in the conference.”
Freshmen Moritz Buerchner and Daniel Sotomarino both stand as strong forces for the Ospreys. Buerchner won his flight at the Georgia Southern Invitational during the fall season and tallied a 15-11 mark overall during regular-season play, including a 9-4 record at No. 1 singles. The Haimhausen, Germany native earned First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honors with a 14-11 doubles record, including a 10-8 tally in duals. Playing with partner Leonardo Nahar, primarily at No. 3, the duo has a 7-3 conference record. Fellow rookie Sotomarino won his flight at the Florida State Invitational and owns a 17-5 record in doubles and 11-4 mark in duals, enough to earn A-Sun Freshman of the Year honors.
“We have a young team, including four freshmen, in addition to one senior in the lineup,” Buberman said. “We have had a successful season, which we owe a lot to experience, but our freshmen have really helped us out.”
Friday, the Ospreys face the pressure of the No. 2 Hatters. Stetson has home-court advantage due to the Hatters hosting the league championships for the fifth time; the first since 2005. Stetson concluded the regular season with a 19-4 overall record and an 8-2 mark in A-Sun Conference play to enter as the second seed.
Equally as impressive, the young Osprey squad finished the regular season with a 17-7 overall mark and a 7-3 tally in conference play. Against conference foes, UNF only fell to Stetson (6-1), USC Upstate (6-1) and ETSU (5-2).
“We took all of those matches as a learning experience even though we lost some,” Buberman said. “When you compete you want to measure yourself against the best so you can attract a better caliber of players. It helps to build a better team. At Division I, any team can beat anybody, so you can never tell going into a match what will happen.
“We have to go over there, play the match and see how it goes, but I think we all have the same teams. One position may be a little bit stronger than the other one, but if we hang in there we might have a chance. If we’re strong enough, we can take it.”
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The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.