Memorial University capped off a perfect regular season with a win at the Atlantic University Tennis League Championships (AUTL) held March 1-3, 2019 at the Atlantic Tennis Centre in Bedford, Nova Scotia. The win earns Memorial its first-ever AUTL Championship title and also a berth in the Canadian University Tennis Championships held at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in August 2019.
Memorial entered the tournament as the front-runner, having won the two lead up tournaments in November and February during regular season play. While the tournament wins gave the team momentum and confidence heading into the Championship weekend, they knew the road to the championship title would be tough.
Memorial’s Team Captain and 5th year player, Josh Lehr, speaks of the team’s mind-set heading into the tournament, “We were really excited heading into the Championship weekend. We knew that we had a shot but we also knew that we had some really close matches in the lead up tournaments so it was going to be tough. In years past, we had won some of the lead up tournaments but never won the final Championship so we had that in mind. Pulling out the close matches was going to be important so we just took it one match at a time and focused on keeping up our level of play.”
Winning the close matches proved pivotal as they met a tough Dalhousie team in the finals. After narrowly beating Dalhousie in the first tournament of the season, Dalhousie made some additions to their roster that strengthened their line-up and created different match-ups this time around. The two teams split the singles match-ups with Memorial winning the men’s and women’s singles on court #1 and Dalhousie winning both men’s and women’s singles on court #2. Samantha Vincent pulled out the closest match of the day with her win at #1 singles over Dalhousie’s Abigail Yashayaeva by a score of 6-7, 6-2, 10-7.
The teams would also split the doubles points as Memorial’s men’s tandem of Lenny French and Nicholas Vincent beat Dalhousie’s Graeme Larsen and Aaron Yip 8-1 and Dalhousie’s experienced women’s team of Tessa Wearmouth and Samiya Dottin defeated Memorial’s Kendra Mai Dyson and Emma Murray 8-4. With the overall fixture tied 3-3, the match would come down to the mixed doubles yet again. Lehr and (Samantha) Vincent got off to an early lead for Memorial and never looked back, picking up an 8-2 win over Dottin/Robertson and clinching the 4-3 win for Memorial’s first AUTL title in program history.
Memorial had to rush out quickly to catch flights and beat a snow storm but they celebrated as a team once they arrived back in hometown St. John’s, Newfoundland. They finally took a moment to think about the opportunity ahead of them to compete at the Nationals which will be especially sweet for Lehr who reflects on his time with the team over the last 5 years. “Our team is a combination of some new players and some of us that have been at it for a while. It’s really exciting for our freshman to have the chance to go to the nationals but for me, it’s so nice after playing for the team for a while. The chance to continue our season, play more tennis, play at a high level and attend Rogers Cup is just really exciting.”
The story of the AUTL in recent years has really been the growing depth in level of play and the competitiveness of the matches. League Convenor Mark Thibault says, “It’s so exciting to see the parity between the teams. We have seen 3 different winners in 3 years and the matches are so close and competitive throughout the league. It’s just really exciting tennis.” Defending champions University of New Brunswick secured a third place finish with a close win over University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) in the bronze medal match. Previous winner Dalhousie has also continued to produce top-notch teams that have been in contention every year, ending this year with a second place finish. Congratulations to all of the participating team and the high level of tennis played throughout the season. Participating teams in the AUTL are listed below.
Dalhousie University #1
Dalhousie University #2
University of New Brunswick
University of Prince Edward Island
St. Francis Xavier
Click here for the complete tournament results.