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Collegians Soar to National Titles

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May 26, 2016 06:55 PM

By James Pressley/Special to USTA Southern

2016 was another banner year for Southern collegiate teams, with numerous national titles being earned.

Pirates capture historic tenth title

In a battle of the two most dominant teams in NCAA Division II women’s tennis, the No. 3-ranked Armstrong State Pirates captured their tenth national championship in program history with a 5-3 win over No. 1 BYU-Hawaii. Team is pictured above.

Armstrong State trailed early after doubles play as BYU Hawaii won at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles heading into singles. The possibility of winning a second consecutive title seemed to be on the rocks again when three singles lines for the Pirates all dropped their first sets. The Pirates soon shook off the surging Seasiders to win their fifth title meetings over BYU-Hawaii. Armstrong now owns won four of the last five NCAA Division II national titles and seven of the past nine.

Davidson leads Stanford to second title in four years

As the No. 15 seeds entered the NCAA Division I Women’s Team Championships, no one expected much of the Cardinal squad en route to their 18th team title over Oklahoma State.

Originally down 3-1 against the up-and-coming Cowgirls team, Stanford would have to lean on junior Taylor Davidson, of Statesville, N.C., to silence the crowd of nearly 700 rowdy supporters in favor of Oklahoma State in Tulsa. As the remainder of her team managed to even up the score, Davidson fought off cramps and fatigue to force a third and decisive set and eventually provide the clincher.

With the win, Stanford has now won 14 of its last 16 NCAA matches when seeded lower than its opponent, a streak that began in 2010.

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Kourtney Keegan won the NCAA Women's Doubles title while playing for Florida. Photo: Jim Burgess/Univ. of Florida

Keegan wins NCAA doubles title

Kourtney Keegan, of Roswell, GA and Brooke Austin brought back a NCAA Individual Championship back to the University of Florida after defeating Cal’s Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr, 6-2, 6-0.

After early exits in both the team and singles competitions, Keegan and Austin refused to leave the tournament empty handed. With a fiery mindset, the No. 3 ranked Gator pair went on to overcome four top-20 opponents before ravishing the Cal tandem. Revenge from the 2015 doubles tournament was exacted by the duo after it was another Cal Bears team that took Keegan and Austin out in the semifinals last year.

Keegan was a member of the Junior Fed Cup team and went 50-0 playing for Blessed Trinity High School, leading them to three consecutive state titles before attending Florida. 

Grizzlies three-peat in dogfight, beating Xavier (La.)

Looking to retain the men’s NAIA national title, the Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies had to come from a 0-2 deficit before capturing their third consecutive national championship over Xavier University of Louisiana. Making their first national title appearance, the Gold Rush wasted no time setting the tone taking their first two doubles points, led by senior Kyle Montrel, of Atlanta, and partner Karan Salwan.

In singles action, Georgia Gwinnett stormed back to take the lead at 3-2, with All-American second-team member Connor Clements, of Charleston, S.C., moving the Grizzlies one point closer to their third national title after picking up the fourth victory at No. 6 singles. Just seconds after Clements’ win, Montrel of Xavier lost to senior Matias Hatem at No. 3 singles, putting away the 5-2 victory was clinched.

Georgia Gwinnett caps off the 2016 season with a perfect 26-0 record, their best in program history and joins Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) (2007, 2008, & 2009), Fresno Pacific (Calif.) (2010 & 2011), Azusa Pacific (Calif.) (2004 & 2006), and Oklahoma City (2000 & 2001) as the only teams to go the entire season ranked No. 1 in two or more seasons starting in 2000.

Lady Grizzlies capture second title in three seasons

As runner ups in 2015, the women of Georgia Gwinnett sought redemption and succeeded in a tight 5-4 victory over Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). This was the 12th national championship appearance for Lindsey Wilson and their first-ever title. Seizing the moment, the Blue Raiders handed the Grizzlies its first-ever multiple match losses in this year’s national championship.

Having to overcome a 2-1 deficit after doubles play, the Grizzlies rallied back to defeat the Blue Raiders by winning four of the six singles matches. Following the victory, Georgia Gwinnett coach Chase Hodges was named the NAIA Women's Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.

Lady Eagles soar once again in thriller

For the second time in the past three seasons and the seventh time in program history, the Emory University women’s tennis team captured the NCAA Division III National Championship after a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Williams College. The Eagles trailed 2-1 after doubles play as the Ephs took the first two doubles points.

Williams College retained the lead in singles play as Ephs junior Linda Shin, of Johns Creek, Ga., knocked off senior Beatrice Rosen at No. 3 singles. But it would be Emory junior Katarina Su, of Alpharetta, Ga., that would deadlock the match, leaving senior Madison Gordon to erase an early first-set deficit en route to her 22nd straight singles match victory and the title clincher.

Emory finishes the season at 28-5 overall including a 22-1 mark against Division III opponents. The 28 victories tie the school record of most wins in a single season.

Oxford-Emory dominates on road to fifth national championship

For the second straight year, the men of Oxford-Emory (Ga.) claimed the NJCAA Men's National Championship. Oxford beat out eight other teams, which were on location for the competition at Collin College in Plano, Texas.

Entering the tournament ranked No. 1, Oxford won six out of nine possible flights to earn 41 total points over the second place team, Mercer County (N.J.), who finished with 29. Southern Players Chase Mahlrig of Fort Mill, S.C., and Shams Sohani, of Chattanooga, Tenn., all won singles championships for the team. The Eagles’ team of Sohani and Malhrig won the number-two doubles national title, which sealed the over all championship for the team.

Head coach Pernilla Hardin, who was named NJCAA Division III Men’s Coach of the Year, led championship efforts.

Cavaliers top Sooners in 2015 championship rematch

Top-seeded Virginia won its second-straight NCAA Division I team title with a 4-1 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma. Having to deal with a second day of a weather delay, No. 2 doubles tandem of Junior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of Charlotte, N.C., and senior Mac Styslinger, of Birmingham, Ala., got off to a slow start, dropping the only doubles line to the Sooners.

Kwiatkowski would later make amends in the singles line up. After trailing 4-1 in the first set, Kwiatkowski would rally back to give Virginia a 3-0 lead with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over the Sooner’s Spencer Papa. The North Carolina native was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and a member of the All-Tournament Team.

Tar Heel star falls to long-time rival in final

In a battle of No. 1 vs. No 2., it was second seeded Danielle Collins of Virginia who prevailed over North Carolina’s Hayley Carter, 6-3, 6-2, to win the 2016 NCAA Women’s Singles Championship. Carter, of Hilton Head Island, S.C., was seeking her first national championship while Collins was battling for her to earn her second national title in the last three seasons.

Throughout the highly anticipated match, Collins’ experience allowed her to perform a clinic, dominating from the first point to the last. The loss for Carter was her second to Collins in six meetings but carried much more significance this go round since it was Collins and the Cavaliers who took out Carter’s Tar Heels in team competition a week prior to the singles tournament and Collins preventing back-to-back championships for North Carolina after Jamie Loeb claimed the 2015 singles title.

The Tar Heel junior finishes her 2016 season with a 49-5 overall singles record.

 

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