2023 NCAA Championships: Barry University men win fourth straight Division II title
A familiar men's Division II championship matchup produced a familiar result on Monday night at the USTA National Campus. The Barry University Buccaneers overcame an energetic start from Columbus State to win their fourth straight NCAA title with a 4-2 victory under the lights in Orlando, Fla., claiming the first title on offer at the historic 2023 championships.
It was the fourth time in the past five editions of the Division II tournament that the two schools have squared off in the men's final, with Barry winning three of the prior four meetings. After dropping the doubles point and losing the opening set on three of the six singles courts, the Buccaneers methodically turned the match around to win their seventh national crown.
Senior Alejandro Palacios' clinching 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles mirrored his team's overall comeback effort.
“Columbus started with an amazing energy and also in the first sets of a lot of courts, they were doing great in singles," said the Spaniard, who has been a part of all four of Barry's consecutive title runs. "But we are good tennis players. In the last years, we put it all together in the last moments. And I think of course today, in the last match … It was a day to come back in the best way possible.”
The senior's victory was backed up by straight-sets win from Alessandro Giuliato at No. 3, Arnau Rodriguez at No. 4 and Tim Buttner at No. 6, while Barry's No. 1 singles player Alejandro Gallego was locked in a third set with ITA No. 1. Santiago Perez of CSU.
- Barry celebrates after match point. Photo by Manuela Davies.
- Barry senior Alejandro Palacio clinched victory for the Buccaneers at No. 2 singles. Photo by Manuel Davies/USTA.
Barry head coach Thomas Hipp—who was a star player at the school and a former assistant coach before taking over in his current role two years ago—was especially pleased with his team's performance in such a close match.
"It feels special today as well, because we played really well," he explained. "It was a super tough match. Once you win a really close match, then you're even more happier than when it's not so close.
“I would say that's the beauty of tennis," he said of his team's come-from-behind effort. "That's not like in team sports, when you play with a clock and you're really down, it's unlikely to come back. But in tennis, the good thing is while you're on the court, you always have a chance to come back. And we know that and we are thriving on that."
Columbus State head coach Evan Isaacs left with no regrets after a hard-fought final in which both teams produced some of the best tennis of the Division II season.
“I thought we came out real aggressive," he said. "We had a great mindset today. We had a good game plan. Our doubles was phenomenal, it was probably our best doubles we played all year, to be honest.
“We played tough and Barry deserves to win. There wasn't anything cheap about today. That was, in my opinion, one of the great all-time matches for collegiate tennis. It should be one of the top matches this year. It was clean, it had a professional atmosphere to it. Both teams fought their butt off. It was a great experience to be a part of. It sucks we lost, but Barry deserved to win today.”
Monday's match was the first final of the historic 2023 NCAA Championships, which is bringing together all three divisions at the same site for the first time. Players and coaches from both Barry and Columbus State were full of praise for their experience at the USTA National Campus, with both teams saying they hope the Division II tournament will remain in Lake Nona in future years.
“It was the first time that I feel like it was a real national [championships], honestly," Palacios said. "The environment, the facility, everything. I was feeling amazing and I'm very grateful for that.
“I think I'm going to talk for every player that played here in this national [championships]. We feel grateful because our families, in my case in Spain, they can watch every single court. They can follow every single court, the score, the live video, and we appreciate it.”
Added CSU's Isaacs: “I haven't heard anybody say anything negative about this experience, talking to the other coaches. I hope that the USTA and the NCAA will continue to partner up and have the Championships here. It was a phenomenal experience for these student-athletes. This will be something that they never forget.”
On Tuesday night in Orlando, the Barry women will bid to complete a title sweep for the school. Seeking thier sixth straight title, they will take on Nova Southeastern at 6 p.m.
For more information, including tickets, draws and schedule, visit the USTA's NCAA Championships homepage. For all the latest news from the Division I, II and III tournaments, visit USTA.com's news landing page for the event.