LIU tennis’ ‘dream team’ headed to NCAA Tournament
Grigoryan Paces Blackbirds women to 2nd Straight NEC Championship
Junior Anna Grigoryan summed up Long Island University Brooklyn’s second straight NCAA Tournament-bound squad in four simple words.
“It’s a dream team,” the Blackbirds’ No. 1 singles player said after the top-seeded Downtown Brooklyn program pulled out a 4-1 triumph over No. 2 seed Bryant in the Northeast Conference Tournament Tennis final Sunday afternoon in West Windsor, N.J.
Grigoryan, who finished the year with an eye-popping 23-7 record in No. 1 singles play, also joined forces with sophomore Ana Leonte as part of the top-flight doubles team that opened Sunday’s final by besting the Bulldogs’ Ashanti Campfield and Stefanie Arroyo, 6-4.
Grigoryan took on Campfield in the first singles match, cruising to a 6-Love, 6-1 victory that helped her earn the first-ever NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player Award as the school’s team picked up the fourth league title in the program’s history.
“It sounds great,” Grigoryan said when told that she would be the first-ever player to receive the individual honor. “We’ve been working so hard all year. The whole season has been great so far. It feels pretty amazing.
“I think the whole team got much closer, and we also got two newcomers and they fit the team so well. It’s a dream team.”
It’s hard to argue Grigoryan’s point, especially when comparing the Blackbirds to the rest of their conference.
The team went a perfect 8-0 in NEC matchups last year, including the postseason, to reach the NCAAs, where it fell to nationally ranked Pepperdine in the opening round.
This season, the Blackbirds went 17-4 overall, including another unbeaten campaign against league foes, finishing Title II off with a breathtaking blitz through the NECs, dropping only one of 13 postseason matches.
“We worked really hard this year,” head coach Anthony Davison noted moments after the official trophy presentations and photo ops.
“I pushed them more,” he added. “We upped everything, and they responded really well. But there was a lot of pressure on us. It was a tough match, and a close match. Credit to [Bryant]. This year, we were favorites, but we pulled through. It’s never easy, but it was nice.”
Even nicer were the contributions of sophomore Jessica Brzozowska, a 6-2, 6-Love winner in No. 2 singles, and junior Malin Leysen, who teamed with sophomore sensation Jennifer Gogova for a hard-earned No. 2 doubles point.
Junior Clemence Krug finished off the championship by breezing past Megan Tan, 6-2, in the No. 6 singles spot.
“I wanted to do it for my team,” said Krug, who joined Grigoryan and Brzozowska in receiving All-NEC Tournament honors.
“We’ve been working hard for this moment,” she added. “It’s just like a dream when you dream of winning this conference.”
The dream may continue for the team, which was eagerly waiting to find out its first-round NCAA Tournament on Tuesday evening.
The Blackbirds should be better prepared to pull off a first-round upset in the national championships after losing, 4-0, to powerhouse Pepperdine in 2017.
“We learned our lesson from last year, playing in the NCAAs,” Grigoryan noted.
“We are more prepared for this. We practiced the whole year for this title and to go back this year.”
In other local college sports news, Kelsey Sneglar, St. Francis Brooklyn’s freshman water polo standout from New Zealand, made history in the pool this year.
Sneglar capped her initial regular season with the Terriers by becoming the first-ever women’s player to score at least 100 goals for the program in a single campaign.
The feat was accomplished on April 15 in Philadelphia during the school’s 19-6 loss to Wagner College, finishing off a 5-19 overall record for the Terriers, who are still eligible to compete in next weekend’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Sneglar finished the year with 103 goals, the seventh-most in the history of the MAAC. She will get another three years on Remsen Street to chase and surpass her own school record.
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The Long Island University Brooklyn baseball team continued its pursuit of an NEC Tournament spot with a big 3-1 win over visiting Central Connecticut State on Sunday.
Redshirt junior Corey Hart sparked the commanding team pitching performance by yielding one run on five hits with eight strikeouts over the first five frames before sophomore Jackson Svete (3-1) tossed three scoreless innings out of the bullpen to pick up the win.
The Blackbirds (20-16, 10-7 NEC), who took two of three games from the Blue Devils over the weekend, the first two of which went extra innings, pulled out the rubber match when senior Andrew Turner belted a tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh.
Junior Mike Krieger nailed down the team’s 20th victory by tossing a scoreless ninth for his fourth save of the year as the Blackbirds moved two games in front of fourth-place CCSU in the NEC standings.
Only the top four teams in the conference will advance to next month’s season-ending NEC Tournament with a chance to earn a spot in the NCAAs.
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