While most teams advanced easily in the first round, the
fifth-ranked HPU (17-3) struggled with The Patriots of Francis
Marion, a South Carolina college. HPU was up 2-1 after doubles
and easily gained a 4-1 lead after Mikael Maatta and ITA West
Region Senior Player-of-the-Year, Wojtek Bratek won their
singles. The Patriots battled back to win two more singles
points to close in at 4-3, but HPU’s Stefan Pampulov came
from behind in his singles to lead the team into the quarterfinals
“They were definitely one of the toughest teams in the draw,”
said Head Coach Henry Somerville. “We didn’t know we would
have such a difficult time in the first round.” NCAA Division
II college tennis is played with six singles and three doubles
matches, each earning one point to either team. The winner
is determined from the best of these nine matches; however
in NCAA championship play, the first team to win five points
earns the victory and all remaining matches are abandoned.
In the quarterfinals HPU faced fourth-ranked Ouachita Baptist
(18-6), a team they had defeated earlier in the season. The
pattern was identical. The Sea Warriors had a 2-1 lead after
doubles and easily claimed singles victories by Jan Tribler
and Bratek to lead again at 4-1. Ouachita Baptist rallied
to take two more singles, and Maatta’s 12-win streak. With
the score at 4-3, Pampulov’s win clinched the quarterfinal
match at 5-3.
“He’s clutch, what can I say?” said Somerville about Pampulov.
“Every time he’s in a pressured situation he plays his best
tennis.” This victory led to a semifinal match against the
best team in the country, Drury College (21-5) of Springfield,
Missouri. This time the tables were turned and the Sea Warriors
trailed 2-1 after doubles and 4-1 after losing two singles.
“We found ourselves caught in a pivotal moment, ending the
season here or going for it all the way,” said Somerville.
The Sea Warriors pulled off what Somerville calls “the greatest
comeback in school history,” winning the remaining four singles
matches. The deciding win was last year’s Rookie-of-the-Year,
Jan Tribler. Down two games in the third set, Tribler won
six straight games to give HPU a 5-4 win in the semifinal
round and give the men’s team a second chance at a national
In the final HPU faced Rollins College of Florida, which
had upset second-ranked BYU-Hawai‘i in the other semifinal
match. In the championship round, HPU was quickly down 3-0
after a series of close doubles matches. “It happened so fast,”
said Somerville, “the guys never knew what hit them.” In the
end, Rollins prevailed. After a week of tough competition
and defeating two of the top teams in the nation, HPU lost
5-0 in the finals to sixth-seeded Rollins College.
“We were all so exhausted,” said Pampulov after the match.
“But we played and believed like champions all the way through.”