This article was originally published in ZU News.
For the sixth straight year, Azusa Pacific’s men’s tennis has a NCAA Division II (D-II) national champion. For the first time in those six years, it is not a singles champion.
Junior Oliver Frank and senior Christian Schmid are the first APU doubles team to become the D-II champion. They played three rounds at the ITA Oracle Cup in Rome, Ga. from Oct. 11-15 to earn the doubles title.
“It’s the first time anybody has done that in the history of the program. It’s always cool to make history on the trip,” assistant coach Kirby Ronning said. “There are some really positive things to take away from the trip.”
After winning the D-II doubles title, Frank and Schmid entered the next round. Here they competed for a wild card spot to the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. They competed against the NAIA champion and the champion of the junior college division (JUCO).
Frank and Schmid won their first match of this round against the JUCO champion Jorge Martinez and Marcus Walters from Tyler Junior College on Saturday night.
Frank said that this was the highlight of the tournament for him.
“The match we played last night was so intense. It went for over three hours,” Frank said. “It was three hard sets. We started in the daylight and finished under the bright lights [at night].”
The final score was 7-5, 6-7(3), 7-6(6). All three sets went longer than normal matches, with two going to tiebreakers.
“We had multiple matches and set points against us. It seemed like it would not go our way, but we stepped it up and played a great match,” Schmid said.
Ronning said it was incredible to see and was one of his highlights as a coach at APU.
“It was some of the best doubles that I’ve watched in person as a coach,” Ronning said. “The guys fought off a couple match points and were able to play the match out at a really high level. They might have even surprised themselves a little with how well they played in that match. It was a really good step towards where they want to be for the spring.”
In their final match of the tournament, Frank and Schmid lost to the NAIA doubles champion Kevin Konfederak and Gilad Berman of Georgia Gwinnett on Sunday morning.
“I learned to focus on some aspects a little more. They were very good returners and had big serves,” Frank said. “The serves and returns, the very first shots, are just crucial. If they’re not good, we can’t win against players like that.”
The final score of the match was 4-6, 4-6.
“The only reason why they beat us today was because of their serves and returns. Theirs were a little more consistent,” Schmid said.
Frank also played in the singles half of the Oracle Cup. He was the D-II champion last year where he beat the D-III and the NAIA champions. This year he won the first round and the semifinal before falling to Kiranpal Pannu of Columbus State by a score of 7-6, 6-7, 2-6. Frank ended up in second place overall in D-II for singles.
On the doubles side, this was only the second tournament that Frank and Schmid played together. The first was the ITA Western Regionals tournament two weeks ago.
“I think we already have really good chemistry,” Schmid said. “We’ve known each other for a really long time, before we even came to APU. He knows my game style and I know his.”
The Cougars first match as a team isn’t until Feb. 3, but Frank and Schmid are already thinking about the season.
“I’m looking forward to our doubles lineup this year. We have three consistent and strong doubles teams,” Schmid said. “We could switch any spot with each other and it would still work. That should give us enough to play the higher-ranked teams in the nation and beat them finally.”