Division II tennis power Barry University won its first men’s national title in 2010 and its first women’s championship the following year.
This year, it would not be a surprise if both programs end up on top after the national tournament is played May 8-11 in the suburbs of Phoenix.
Last week, Barry’s men and women each beat top-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State 5-4. Armstrong is the reigning D-II champ in both men’s and women’s tennis and has won seven national titles in the past five years.
Barry is No. 2 in the men’s and women’s rankings, and will likely vault to No. 1 when the next polls come out.
Barry’s women’s team (18-0) ended Armstrong’s 43-match win streak. Barry’s men’s team (18-0) ended Armstrong’s 42-match win streak.
Here’s a quick breakdown of each of Barry’s tennis teams:
• Fifth-year coach Avi Kigel, a native of Israel, said this year’s women’s team might be more talented than the one in 2011 — just younger. Instead of juniors and seniors as in 2011, this team has four freshmen, two sophomores and a junior among its top seven. Junior Akemi Maehama is the only player on the roster from the 2011 championship team.
“And this is the first year Akemi is making a big impact on the court,” Kigel said. “In 2011, she was a role player who got in to give others rest. Now she is playing No. 5 or 6 singles, and she has always been a vocal leader.”
Maehama, who is from Japan, is 33-1 in her singles career, which is so far a Barry record for win percentage.
The other key members of the team are Linda Fritschken, a sophomore from Germany; Isabela Miro, a sophomore from Brazil; and the four freshmen: Kimmy Twelker (Germany), Elisabeth Abanda (Canada), Emma Onila (Romania) and Katrina Goia (Romania).
Twelker, at 6-0, is the tallest player on the team and also the hardest hitter, Kigel said. The coach said Fritschken, who was 20-1 in doubles last season, setting a Barry record for best win percentage, is the smartest player.
Barry’s women lost to Armstrong 5-2 in last year’s national semifinals in Louisville, Ky.
“I think this year we have a great chance,” Kigel said. “I think we are one of six teams that can win it all.”
• The men’s team is much deeper, with 14 players on the roster, including walk-ons. Just as with the women, there is a strong German flavor on the men’s team with three starters born there: Marco Mokrzycki, Max Wimmer and Fabian Groetsch.
Mokrzycki and Wimmer, both seniors, are two of the best players in Barry history. Mokrzycki’s career singles record of 48-26 is a bit undervalued because he has played No. 1 singles and faced opposing team’s aces in most matches.
Wimmer, 62-14, has played mostly No. 3 singles and is tied for fourth on Barry’s list for career wins.
The record holder is current Barry assistant coach and German native Thomas Hipp, who had 67. Hipp, though, never won a national title as a player, something Mokrzycki and Wimmer already have accomplished.
The men’s team is also more experienced than the women, with two seniors and two juniors among its top six.
Barry’s men lost in last year’s regional final at Lynn after having defeated it twice during the season.
Kigel said the men’s and women’s teams train separately.
“But we share ideas,” Kigel said, “and there is a lot of pride in what we have accomplished with all of our sports at Barry.”