04/23/12 — MOC men's tennis champs relive tense moments

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MOC men's tennis champs relive tense moments

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 23, 2012 1:48 PM

SUMTER, S.C. -- Murilo Pelegrino constantly watched the video online Sunday afternoon.

He still can't believe it.

The senior from Sao Paulo, Brazil, earned the match-clinching point in dramatic fashion, and lifted Mount Olive College to a 5-4 victory over Limestone (S.C.) College on Saturday afternoon. The Trojan men clinched their first-ever Conference Carolinas tournament crown and claimed the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

"I've been waiting for that match since they beat us here at Mount Olive," Pelegrino said in a telephone interview Sunday evening. "I knew I was going to play the same guy and it was probably going to be the deciding match."

It was.

Tied at 4-all in the overall match score, Limestone's Lucas Guinski took the opening set against Pelegrino in their No. 5 singles duel. Guinski won the previous meeting in straight-set fashion just two weeks ago.

Guinski erased a 4-1 deficit and grabbed a 6-5 advantage on his serve in the second set. Pelegrino served out a love game and benefited from an umpire over-rule on a point, which forced the decisive third-set tiebreaker.

Pelegrino jumped ahead 6-0 much to the delight of his teammates.

"I just needed one more point," Pelegrino said.

Guinski stormed back to within 6-5.

"I look at my friends outside and their facial expressions were like 'oh no, we thought you were going to win'," Pelegrino said.

The final match point is now a YouTube sensation.

Pelegrino and Guinski traded 21 volleys before Pelegrino ripped a match-clinching passing forehand off Guinski's backhand return. In the video, Pelegrino leaps over the net, shakes Guinski's hand and gets mobbed by his teammates.

"I wanted to stay in the point as long as I can ... not going for it (early) and we just kept rallying," Pelegrino said. "At the end of the point, he hit a backhand and I just closed my eyes and hit it as hard as I could. The next thing I saw were my friends hugging me like crazy.

"I've watched the video like a hundred times. I just can't believe it."

The Trojans emerged one of four teams to clinch spring championships in Conference Carolinas play this weekend. The baseball team, ranked No. 3 in the country, put the finishing touches on its East Division crown with a three-game sweep of North Greenville (S.C.) University. The men's and women's cross country squads successfully defended their titles after finishing opening-day action in second place.

MOC finished fourth in women's tennis. The softball team, which won the league's East Division, dropped back-to-back, extra-inning games which led to an early exit in Hartsville, S.C.

"It was crazy ... just nuts," MOC head men's coach and alum Kevin Coghill said. "(Limestone is) very strong one through three. Their one and two doubles teams are very good. I felt like the first time we played them, we did not play doubles very well."

The Trojans (18-6 overall) dropped the opening doubles match, but rallied for a 2-1 advantage. MOC's No. 2 tandem of Brahm Moolman-Diogo Sender combined for a 9-8 (3) win at No. 3 doubles. Edgar Bub-Rik Wolthuis also won 9-8 (1) at the No. 1 slot.

Bub, who defeated the Conference Carolinas player-of-the-year in Saturday's championship match and went unbeaten in the conference tournament in singles and doubles, was named Most Valuable Player.

Akio Mariano battled from behind at No. 4 singles to give MOC a 4-3 lead overall. Limestone, the West Division champion, evened the match at 4-4 with a win at No. 3 singles.

"It's one of those moments in your life where you don't believe this is happening," Coghill said. "The guys just kept believing. I couldn't be more proud of my players. They just laid it all on the line and pulled through.

"It was great."

MOC will learn its postseason fate when the Southeast Regional pairings are announced Tuesday on the NCAA Division II Selection Show. The show is scheduled for 8 p.m. on ncaa.com.