Sun Belt Championship, NCAA Appearances Highlight a Special Season
Overall Record: 15-11
NCAA Championship Regional Appearance: L, 4-0 vs. No. 28 Illinois (Nashville, Tenn.) (Sixth NCAA appearance in school history)
Final Team ITA Ranking: #61
Highest ITA Ranking: #59, Jan. 30
NCAA Singles Championship Appearance: Victor Valente, Senior (Second in school history)
NCAA Doubles Championship Appearance: Lucas Santa Ana/Victor Valente, Seniors (First in school history)
Sun Belt Championship: W, 4-3 vs. #49 MTSU (First Sun Belt title in school history)
Sun Belt Championship Most Outstanding Player: Robert Schulze
Sun Belt Championship All-Tournament Team: Lucas Santa Ana and Victor Valente, Seniors
Sun Belt Coach of the Year: Joerg Barthel
All-Sun Belt First Team Singles: Victor Valente (19-5 Singles record)
All-Sun Belt First Team Doubles: Lucas Santa Ana and Victor Valente (14-2 Doubles record)
All-Sun Belt Second Team Doubles: Robert Schulze (16-7 Singles record)
USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Participant: Victor Valente (First in school history)
ITA Southeast Regional Runner-Up: Victor Valente
NCAA Elite 89 Award: Victor Valente
GSU Men’s Student-Athlete of the Year: Victor Valente
Stoney Burgess Scholarship Award: Lucas Santa Ana
GSU All-Academic Team: Lucas Santa Ana
ATLANTA—Led by the stellar effort of its two seniors, Lucas Santa Ana and Victor Valente, the Georgia State men’s tennis team wrapped up a historic 2012-13 season in which it made appearances in the NCAA Team, Singles and Doubles Championships for the first time in school history.
Georgia State participated in all three of the postseason tournaments in NCAA men’s tennis, one of only three programs outside of the six power conferences in the 64-team NCAA Tournament to do so. The Panthers (15-11) won the Sun Belt Conference Championship in dramatic fashion in their inaugural year in the league. The conference title was GSU’s first in men’s tennis since 2007. Valente became just the second student-athlete in school history to earn a NCAA Singles Championship bid. He joined his classmate, Santa Ana, to become the first doubles team in program history to earn a bid, and a win, in the NCAA Doubles Championship.
In his first year, head coach Joerg Barthel was named the Sun Belt Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year and led the program through many firsts and prominent achievements in the 2012-13 season.
“This has been a great year for our program and we are moving towards our goal of becoming a dominant force in the Sun Belt Conference and a Top 45 team in the country,” Barthel said. “We are very proud of how our guys handled the adversity throughout the year and worked hard on getting better throughout the course of the long season. All of our hard work paid off at the Sun Belt Tournament and we played our best tennis when it mattered.”
The Panthers were on prominent display on the national stage this year. It began in the fall when Valente was the singles runner-up at the ITA Southeast Regional Championship. The second-place finish earned Valente a bid to the prestigious USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate in Flushing, N.Y., in November. It was the first bid for any GSU men’s tennis student-athlete in school history.
The national attention carried over to the spring when Georgia State won the Sun Belt Conference Championship, earning an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Championship. The team learned it was travelling to Nashville, Tenn., and host Vanderbilt University for its regional site during the selection show on Apr. 29. GSU was competitive in all matches, including owning a 7-5 lead in the No. 1 doubles match, but ultimately fell in the first round to No. 26-ranked Illinois.
Santa Ana and Valente earned Georgia State’s first win of any kind in a NCAA Championship setting by upsetting the No. 9-ranked doubles team 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the first round of the NCAA Doubles Championship. The two trailed by a 5-0 margin in the second set before rallying to win the set in a tiebreaker and claim the match. Valente grabbed an early one-set advantage in his first round matchup of the NCAA Singles Championship, but couldn’t close out the match and fell 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3. His opponent, junior Japie de Klerk (Tulsa), eventually advanced to the national semifinals.
“To make the NCAA Tournament in all three categories was a great achievement for our team this year,” Barthel said, “It is a special moment when you get to experience play on the national stage. It was our goal to play tennis in May and we reached it. To have our two seniors compete in the individual tournaments meant a lot to us as coaches as they have been such impact players for us this year and we wanted to work hard for them.”
The highlight of the season came in the Sun Belt Conference Championship against No. 49-ranked Middle Tennessee State. GSU rolled into the finals following back-to-back 4-0 victories in the quarterfinal and semifinal matches, but quickly fell behind MTSU 3-0 in the final match with a team NCAA bid on the line. Santa Ana and Valente began the rally with two singles wins to set up the deciding contests on courts No. 4 and 6 between junior Robert Schulze and freshman Paul Schuette respectively. Schuette fought off six match points to win his match in a third-set tiebreaker. Schulze faced two match points while down 5-6 in the third set, but fought them both off and also won a third-set tiebreaker to win his match. The win clinched a victory for Georgia State and its first Sun Belt championship in school history.
Schulze earned the Sun Belt Conference Championship Most Outstanding Player award for his efforts. Santa Ana and Valente were both named to the Sun Belt Championship All-Tournament team. Those three also earned All-Sun Belt honors prior to the matches, with Valente taking home First Team Singles and Doubles laurels, Santa Ana earning First Team Doubles and Schulze taking home Second Team Singles.
“That moment will stay with this team forever, the adversity we handled throughout the year and resilience we showed when it mattered stands out for me,” Barthel said, “To save match points on two different courts and come out on top after everything we had been through meant a lot to the guys. To go into the Sun Belt Conference as the No. 3 seed and not lose a point until the finals was very special. We played extremely well in all areas and came together as a group. We as coaches could not have been more proud of the efforts of our student-athletes.”
For the season, Valente finished with a 28-9 singles record including all ITA-certified fall tournaments and the NCAA Singles Championship. He owned a 7-4 record vs. nationally-ranked singles opponents. The 2012-13 season will go down as one of the finest in program history to cap a stellar career in which he earned a 79-25 career singles record and a 60-30 career doubles record. Both records are tops among GSU men’s tennis student-athletes since stats were kept beginning in 2007. Santa Ana is right behind Valente, ranking second all-time with a 67-24 singles mark and a 56-19 doubles record. The Brasilia, Brazil native went 24-12 overall in singles play and 20-5 with Valente in doubles in his final season.
Schulze impressed in his first year with the Georgia State men’s tennis program. He went 16-7 in singles play, occupying anywhere from the No. 3-6 slots. Schulze also teamed with a variety of teammates to go 11-8 in doubles play. Junior Thomas Cook earned 10 singles wins and also earned 11 doubles victories. Sophomore Sofiane Chevallier finished the year 14-13 in singles play and 13-8 in doubles play.
Georgia State returns four of its top six singles players from its lineup last season. Visit the men’s tennis page throughout the offseason for news on incoming signees and the announcement of the fall schedule.