GPC's Kante, Lemtouni take national titles for No. 7 Jaguars

05/25/2011
Contact: Wade Marbaugh
Phone: 678-891-2682
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: Darryl Maxie

For Immediate Release

When Mohamed “Reda” Nait Omar recruited Salif Kante to play tennis at Georgia Perimeter College, he expected big things from the Senegal native. 

But not even the Jaguars’ coach anticipated Kante delivering a pair of national championships for the college.

Kante claimed the No. 1 singles national championship at the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament in Plano, Texas, and then joined forces with Ismail Lemtouni to win the No. 1 doubles crown.

Lemtouni, sparkling in his freshman season, also brought home the runner-up trophy in the No. 2 singles flight.

That helped Georgia Perimeter finish seventh with 25.5 points, 1.5 more than powerhouse Region 17 rival Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. Vincennes (Ind.) University took the team title with 43 points.

“Finishing seventh means a lot to GPC,” said Nait Omar. “It means were are back to a national level. Results like this do not come easy. It was a major effort in time and practice to get here.”

Kante, the No. 2 seed in the top flight, was leading Jair Assuncao 5-1 in the opening set when the third seed from Laredo (Texas) Community College retired with an injury.

The Jaguars’ national finish was a fitting end to a season in which Nait Omar was voted Intercollegiate Tennis Association Coach of the Year for Region 4. It more than justified the undefeated Kante’s selection as the player of the year in both ITA Region 4 and NJCAA Region 17 (also known as the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association).

In only his third season as coach, Nait Omar accelerated an ambitious plan to restore Georgia Perimeter to its former national standing, harkening to 1998 through 2001, when the Jaguars swept four consecutive Division 2 national championships. They were Division 1 runners-up in 2003 and ’04.

The Jaguars can once again be mentioned with the tennis elite in Division 1—and even faster than Nait Omar could have anticipated. Now, the goal is to keep it there—minus Kante, who is bound for Florida A&M on a full tennis scholarship.

In all likelihood, the task of defending the Jaguars’ top-flight singles title will fall to Lemtouni, Nait Omar’s fellow Moroccan, who made it to the second flight final before losing to Matt Campbell of Tyler (Texas) Junior College 6-0, 7-6.

“Ismail and Salif were very impressive, and they were the two best players out there,” said Nait Omar.

The coach expects that Lemtouni will benefit next season from reaching the finals in his first year. “The inexperience got to Ismail, but next year he will be very strong.”

Another benefit of the Jaguars’ national run is what it could do to bolster recruiting efforts. Winning begets winners, and Nait Omar seems to have started the ball rolling with this season.

In addition to Kante, the Jaguars will lose the valiant Christian Bellina, who soldiered on through hip injuries to have a solid season and win matches at nationals.

But they return the nucleus of what should be a veteran squad next season, with holdovers like Brian Le, Ramin Zamani and Jeremy Dunham, all of whom won matches in Texas. Keith and Nathan Singleton also will add depth to the team.

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.