College Sports

Barry University athletes get championship rings

By Walter Villa

Special to the Miami Herald

Barry athletes (women’s rowing, men’s tennis) get national championship rings


At Thursday’s ring ceremony to celebrate two teams that won NCAA Division II national championships in 2015, Barry University women’s rowing coach Boban Rankovic had his athletes hold up their hands.

“These are blisters,” Rankovic said. “They worked really hard.”

The other team honored on Thursday for its national title, Barry’s men’s tennis program, could empathize with the rowers. They too had blisters … along with sore elbows and feet and knees.

It was all worth it, though, as Barry has now produced 15 national titles in its history, including three in the past five years for men’s tennis and its coach, Dr. George Samuel.

The tennis team went 26-0 last season, beating 18 schools that were ranked among the nation’s top 25 at the time.

Two of the stars of that team – Fabian Groetsch and Kevin Sielmann – have since graduated but flew back to Miami to participate in Thursday’s ring ceremony.

Groetsch, an All-American who was ranked No. 11 in singles and No. 1 in doubles (with Ahmed Triki), flew in from his native Germany. Sielmann, who went 7-1 in singles and 12-6 in doubles last season, flew in from his native Spain.

“You can see my hands – for sure it was the same (as the rowers) or even worse,” said Sielmann, who is trying to launch his pro career from Barcelona. “We practiced in the morning and in the afternoon, lifted weights, ran. We had no weekends off. No party – until the championship day.”

Samuel said his athletes had a chant last season: “Let’s show them who we are.”

The tennis team did just that and so did the rowers, who went undefeated and won their first national title.

Rankovic said that at one point last season he tried to lighten the load on his hard-working athletes. He attempted to move the daily 4:30 a.m. practices back to a more reasonable hour – 5:30 a.m.

His rowers, though, weren’t having it because they’re already accustomed to the grind.

“We push ourselves to the limit, to the point where we think we’re going to throw up or pass out,” sophomore rower Kristy Figueroa said. “We push ourselves over the limit. We do it because there’s one goal we want to reach.”

That goal was reached last season – for the rowers and the tennis players. On Thursday, they got the rings to wear as proof.


The Sharks have two graduate students on their roster this season – one who was at Syracuse the past four years (Albert Nassar) and the other who played 30 career games for Temple (Nick Pendergrast).

Both have one more year of eligibility. Nassar, a 6-5 forward, is a former player at Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons. Pendergrast, a 6-6 forward, is a former second-team All-State high school player in Connecticut.

The Sharks have a third transfer in 5-10 sophomore point guard B.J. Edwards, who started 15 games last season at Division I Jacksonville.