The nation’s sixth-ranked Brenau University tennis program earned a second-place finish after falling 5-1 in the championship match against Auburn University-Montgomery at the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament on Saturday in Mobile, Ala.
The Golden Tigers’ sole victory in the 5-1 finals came in doubles competition. Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Year Fatyha Berjane, a senior from Casablanca, Morocco, and sophomore All-Conference selection Patricia Recalde Pacua of Asuncion, Paraguay, for Brenau defeated Paula Diaz and Anna Rudolfova of the Warhawks 9-7.
“Our conference is one of the toughest in the NAIA, so we knew going in it would be very difficult,” said Brenau coach Andre Ferreira. “AUM is a very talented team, and I am very pleased with the improvements our girls have made.”
Prior to matches against Auburn-Montgomery, the Golden Tigers shut out Martin Methodist 9-0 in the tournament quarterfinals April 22 and beat Middle Georgia State College 5-2 in semifinals play April 23.
Ferreira said he is especially impressed by the doubles play of freshman Kirsten Dickins, of London, and sophomore Paula Rives Palau, of Barcelona, who “really rose to the occasion” after struggling earlier in the tournament.
The Golden Tigers coach also praised freshman All-Conference player Rebecca Pijils, of Beek, Netherlands, for her performances in singles competition.
“Every match was a little different,” Ferreira said. “I was pleased with our No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, they played super and very well in singles, too.”
Brenau University takes part in the NAIA Championships on May 15 in Mobile, Ala. Since the team is likely to remain ranked No. 6, if not higher, in the NAIA national polls, the Golden Tigers could receive a first-round bye in the championships.