Patriot Men rally late to beat Saints in NCAA Tournament

Florence, SC - From Francis Marion University:

SAVANNAH, GA – Senior Dilshod Sharifi closed out a four-hour, 53-minute marathon match with a three-set singles win to carry 13th-ranked Francis Marion University to a 5-4 come-from-behind win over 15th-ranked Flagler College, Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Men's Tennis Tournament in Savannah, GA.

The Patriots improve to 12-7 and advance to face second-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University in the regional final on Saturday at 10 a.m.  The 28-1 Pirates beat 24th-ranked Lees-McRae College 5-0 on Friday morning.  The winner of Saturday's region final advances to the Division II Men's Tennis Championships Round of 16 in Altamonte Springs, Fla., on May 12-15.

Flagler ends its season 14-9, with three of the losses coming at the hands of the Patriots. This marks the fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament that Francis Marion has won its opening match.

Trailing 4-2, Francis Marion got three-set singles wins from the veteran trio of Sharifi, Oshada Wijemanne, and Karl Rogers.

Rogers notched a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Tim Hansson at No. 5 singles to bring FMU to within 4-3.  Wijemanne, ranked 13th nationally, then beat Harry Snoxell 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, at No. 2 singles to even the match at 4-4.

All eyes then turned to the completion of the third set at No. 1 singles where Sharifi, ranked second nationally, and 10th-ranked David Cotrone played for the right for their team to advance.  After Sharifi had won the opening set 7-6 in a tiebreaker, Cotrone forced a third set by winning 7-5.  Sharifi gained an early break in the third set and went on to win 6-2.

Flagler claimed two of the three doubles matches to take an early 2-1 advantage.  Only the Patriot duo of Alex Caspari and Rogers were victorious at the No.3 spot.

Francis Marion won the first set in four of the six singles matches to open up the opportunity for the comeback. A quick win by Jack Bishop, 6-2, 6-2 over Mason Addison, at No. 6 singles drew the match even at 2-2. Flagler collected straight-set singles wins at the No. 3 and No. 4 positions to take the 4-2 lead.