South Carolina State Men’s Tennis Claims the 2024 MEAC Championship Title

Cary, N.C. — The South Carolina State Bulldogs won the 2024 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Championship Tournament with a 4-0 sweep of the No. 3 Eagles of North Carolina Central claiming the fourth consecutive, and 19th overall, MEAC Championship Title.  

South Carolina State’s Mikalai Bankou and Novak Novakovic seized a 6-3 victory at No. 1 doubles against Hugo Hidalgo Vega and Leo Fortier-Gariepy. Fellow SCSU teammates Gabriel Johnson and Ivan Pauliuchenka won 6-2 at No. 3 doubles against Lucas Artigas and Shaka Cristellotti putting the Bulldogs ahead 1-0 heading into singles play. 

The Bulldogs went up 2-0 after Luka Stefanovic won the first singles match of the day with a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 6 singles against opponent Neiman Sneed.  

Aissa Benchakroun took the next point for S.C. State after matching up against Leo Fortier-Gariepy. The two went to a 6-6 tiebreaker game after Fortier-Gariepy won deuce following a 40-40 tie with the match score at 6-5. 

Benchakroun won the tiebreak 7-3 for a 7-6 first set victory. Benchakroun went on to win the second set 6-3 to add the third point for South Carolina State.  

The first set saw several lead changes between Ivan Pauliuchenka (SCSU) and Oliver Saarinen (NCCU) at No. 5 singles. The pair sat tied at 5-5 when Pauliuchenka won the next two games to take the first set 7-5. Pauliuchenka went on to win the second set 7-5 to clinch the 4-0 sweep for the Bulldogs. 

At No. 1 singles, first team all-conference awardee Novak Novakovic matched up against MEAC Player of the Year Hugo Hidalgo Vega, for the most anticipated No. 1 singles matchup in the tournament. 

Novakovic trailed Hidalgo Vega 5-2 before making a three-game comeback to tie the score at 5-5 before the two exchanged wins to tie the score at six-all forcing a tiebreaker. Novakovic hit a big serve with no return to clinching a 7-6 first-set win over Hidalgo Vega. When the Bulldogs clinched the match, Hidalgo Vega held a 4-3 lead in the second set. 

2024 Men’s Tennis All-Tournament Team 
Outstanding Coach – 
Hardeep Judge, S.C. State 
Outstanding Player – Aissa Benchakroun, S.C. State 

Singles 1 – Hugo Hidalgo Vega, N.C. Central 
Singles 2 – Kareem Abdul Hakim, N.C. Central 
Singles 3 – Aissa Benchakroun, S.C. State 
Singles 4 – Naresh Barathy Mithran, N.C. Central 
Singles 5 – Ivan Pauliuchenka, S.C. State 
Singles 6 – Luka Stefanovic, S.C. State 

Doubles 1 – Kareem Abdul Hakim and Oliver Saarinen, N.C. Central 
Doubles 2 – Mikalai Bankou and Novak Novakovic, S.C. State 
Doubles 3 – Gabriel Johnson and Ivan Pauliuchenka, S.C. State