One way or another, the phenomenal sophomore season for Leo Vithoontien (Bangkok, Thailand/Bangkok Patana School) was going to end on Sunday as he played in the title match of the 2019 NCAA Division III Singles Championship.
He earned a runner-up finish after falling to No. 3-ranked Jonathan Jemison of Emory University by a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 tally. Vithoontien wrapped up the year 27-3, the most wins in recorded Carleton tennis history, in addition to securing his second All-America award in as many years.
“Carleton could not have asked for a better ambassador than Leo Vithoontien,” said Knights’ head coach Stephan Zweifel. “Talent, determination, and most of all class. He elevates all around him. The next two years are going to be a real treat.”
Vithoontien, the first Carleton tennis player ever to play in the title match at the NCAA Singles Championship, was unseeded in the 32-player bracket for the national tournament. He earned his spot in the finals by defeating Jemison’s teammate Adrien Bouchet in the opening round (6-3, 6-2), Wilson Lambeth of Trinity University (Texas) in the Round of 16 (6-2, 6-4), No. 4 seed Ethan Hillis of Washington University-St. Louis (6-3, 6-1), and defending national champion and No. 2 seed Grant Urken of Bowdoin College (2-6, 7-6 [7-3], 6-2).
Jemison, the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Championships, raced out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set before Vithoontien closed the gap by winning the next two games. The Emory senior captured the next two games and took the set, 6-3.
The Carleton sophomore flipped the script in the second set as he rode a 4-1 lead to a 6-4 result that sent the title match to a decisive third set.
Jemison opened up a 5-2 lead in this last set before Vithoontien got back into striking distance by taking back-to-back games but the rally fell short as Jemison captured the final game 6-4 to take home the championship.
This result snapped Vithoontien’s 21-match win streak that dated back to a Jan. 27 setback against University of North Dakota’s (D-I) Nejc Sitar.