Barry University tennis player Carlos Gomez — struggling to deal with 95-degree temperatures and a heat index of 107 last Friday at Altamonte Springs — changed his shirt three times during his match. He also subbed out his sweaty wristbands 15 times.
Gomez, a 5-9 junior from Spain, changed his shorts three times, too, including the last time right there on the court as his Barry trainers and coaches formed a circle around him for the purposes of modesty.
“I was soaked,” Gomez said.
Shortly after that last wardrobe change, Gomez won his match, clinching an NCAA Division II national title for his top-seeded Bucs (26-1), beating No. 2 Columbus State 4-3.
The next day, on the same courts, Barry’s top-seeded women (26-2) also won a national tennis title, beating No. 3 Lynn 4-2.
Barry is the first Division II tennis program to sweep the men’s and women’s national titles since Armstrong in 2012.
But it wasn’t easy.
Barry’s men fell behind 3-0 against Columbus State. Barry lost the doubles point for just the second time all year, and Gomez, at No. 3 singles, trailed 4-3 in the decisive third set before rallying to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
At 4-4 in the third set, Gomez started to cramp up and called a medical timeout, which bought him the time he needed to finish the match with a nearly miraculous win.
“To come back from down 3-0, I thought I was dreaming,” said George Samuel, who just finished his 29th season coaching the Barry men’s team, winning his fourth national title with his other championships coming in 2010, 2013 and 2015. “I’m so proud of the guys.”
Meanwhile, Barry’s women won their third straight national title and their fifth overall. No other Bucs program has accomplished either feat.
Next year, Barry will try to tie the Division II record of four consecutive national titles in women’s tennis, which is held by SIU-Edwardsville (1986-89).
On Saturday, Barry was trailing 4-2 in doubles but rallied to get the point by prevailing in a 7-5 tiebreaker. Barry then won three of the five singles matches to clinch the title, avenging a 5-2 loss to Lynn on March 25.
That regular-season loss ended Barry’s 69-match win streak — but it came with an asterisk. Barry’s No. 2 singles player, Verena Schmid, missed that match due to a sprained left wrist. That painful injury forced her to abandon her two-hand backhand for most of the year, using a one-hand slice instead.
Schmid, a 5-10 senior from Germany, won her first set 6-4 on Saturday, but she was trailing 5-2 in the second. She then won five straight games to clinch the match.
“This was the most emotional championship for me,” said Schmid, who also won titles during her sophomore and junior seasons. “This was my senior year, so there was high pressure.
“But it was a good pressure. We knew we could do it.”
Avi Kigel, who has won five national titles in his 11 years coaching Barry’s women, said the toughest thing all season was managing injuries. Six of his top eight players got hurt at different points during the season.
Things went from bad to ridiculous when Zuza Maciejewska, a senior from Poland, suffered a concussion in March when a swinging door hit her in the head. She missed six weeks.
“I’ve never dealt with this many injuries,” Kigel said. “It was very challenging, but we got healthy at the right time. During our last three matches, that was the first time all year we went with the same six singles players.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Barry’s women’s team will have to replace four seniors: Schmid, Maciejewska, Carolin Schmidt and Hannah Seizer. The men will also have to replace four seniors: Flavio Matteoli, Daniel Ventura, Pierre Montrieul and Vivien Versier.
▪ Combined with the men’s soccer victory in the fall, Barry has totaled three national titles in the same academic year for the first time in school history. The Bucs earned two titles in four other school years.