An athlete can receive no greater honor than to be selected to represent their country during international competition. The University of South Alabama’s Tuki Jacobs repaid the gesture by helping Namibia to one of its greatest moments in Davis Cup tennis action.
Jacobs, a junior for the Jaguars, recently took time off from school to travel to Cairo, Egypt, for the Africa Zone Group III event. Nine countries were split into two pools and played a round-robin format. The winners of each pool faced the runner-up of the other group, with the top two finishers being promoted to the Europe/Africa Zone Group II in 2016.
The No. 1 player for Namibia, Jacobs was making his fourth appearance on its Davis Cup team. Prior to this season, he had a 6-6 career mark in singles and 2-2 in doubles.
“I’ve enjoyed every year playing in the Davis Cup,” Jacobs told Lagniappe. “We are getting better as a team, but we were up against players who are ranked among the top 200 in the world.”
Namibia opened with Ghana. Jacobs defeated George Darko 6-3, 7-5 in singles. “He had a powerful serve,” Jacobs said, “but I was able to break his serve for the difference.” Jacobs then teamed with Gideon Van Dyk to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in doubles.
Next up was the heavily favored team from Tunisia, which swept three matches. Jacobs lost 6-0, 6-1 to Malek Jaziri, who is ranked 92nd in the world.
“I tried to play better to beat him,” Jacobs said. “I tried too much and he beat me quickly. I had a lot of unforced errors.”
Jacobs redeemed himself against Algeria. After losing to Mohamed Hassan, ranked 221st in the world, in last year’s Davis Cup, Jacobs came through to win 6-1, 6-3. Jacobs and Van Dyk then sealed the victory with a 6-2, 6-2 decision in doubles. This marked the first time Namibia had ever defeated Algeria in team competition.
“I fixed my mistakes, and just decided to play my own game,” Jacobs said of the match with Hassan. “I lost to him in straight sets the last time.”
With the 2-1 match record, Namibia finished second in Pool A. This qualified them to play in the Africa Group III final for the first time.
Egypt, the host team, proved too powerful and won both matches. Jacobs lost to Mohamed Safwat 6-4, 6-4. Tunisia beat Benin in the other semifinal, and will be promoted with Egypt to Group II.
“It was exciting to reach the semifinals,” Jacobs said. “We did not move up, but we learned a lot. We will be better prepared in July when the Davis Cup is played in Madagascar.”
Jacobs, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 205 pounds, returned to Mobile in time to help the Jaguars close out the fall season at the CCB Collegiate Invitational in Birmingham. He earned a victory in the third-place match by beating Gian Issa of Middle Tennessee 7-5, 6-2.
“I’ve enjoyed this season a lot,” said Jacobs, who is majoring in electrical engineering. “We work hard in practice, and it shows in our matches. There are no lazy players on this team.”
In 2014-15, Jacobs had a 24-8 record in singles. He was named second-team All-Sun Belt Conference.
Despite his recent successes, Jacobs still has many goals he wants to accomplish while at USA, including being the Sun Belt Conference player of the year. He knows what it takes to earn that honor, after watching former Jaguar teammate Daniel Leitner claim the last two awards.
“Having seen him work hard in practice and then beat some great guys, I understand what I need to do,” Jacobs said. “But I also want to learn to be a leader like Daniel was.”
● The women’s soccer team at the University of Mobile saw its tremendous season end following a 2-1 double overtime upset to Benedictine College during the quarterfinals of the NAIA national tournament in Orange Beach. The Lady Rams finished with a 19-3 record, with the losses coming against teams nationally ranked in the top six. In Saturday’s championship game, Spring Arbor shocked top-seeded Lindsey Wilson 3-0 to capture the title.
Five of UM’s players were named Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athletes for maintaining a minimum grade point average of 3.5. Lucia Guajardo, a midfielder from Daphne, was the only senior. Juniors completing the list were defenders Melissa Beaulieu and Anna Caroline Scales plus midfielders Elissa Chamberlain and Morgan Littlewood.
● The Lady Jaguars also had an incredible run in women’s soccer. USA was undefeated in league play and then captured its third straight Sun Belt Conference tournament trophy. After winning its first NCAA tournament game with a shutout of LSU, the Lady Jags eventually lost to defending national champion Florida State to end with an 18-2-3 record.
Chardé Hannah was named to the All-South Region second-team, while Nini Rabsatt-Smith, Sarah Hay and Jemma Purfield were on the third-team. Hannah was named the Most Outstanding Player in the SBC tourney.
● UM had three men’s soccer players earn Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors. The seniors were forward Mitch Golding, defender James Hayley and defender Harry McGregor.
● Mechell Daniel, a junior opposite side hitter for the USA volleyball squad, has been named all-SBC for the third time. She earned a berth on the second-team unit after ranking third in the league with 385 kills.
● UM had six volleyball players gain Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors. Local players include junior defensive specialist Jessica Cunningham of Satsuma and junior outside hitter Brooke Presnell of Saraland. Others on the list were setter Taylor Harper, outside hitter Bailey Nations and defensive specialists Nicole Armstrong and Taylor Harper.