Club tennis unexpectedly wins national championship

  • By Crews Enochs
  • April 17, 2013
  • Comments Off on Club tennis unexpectedly wins national championship

Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 3:29 pm | Updated: 5:35 pm, Tue Apr 16, 2013.

TANYA SICHYNSKY 

The Georgia club tennis team did not expect to win the USTA Tennis On Campus National Championship held in Surprise, Ariz.

In fact, graduate student Meg Inscoe booked her flight back to Georgia on the Friday night of the tournament, knowing the semifinals and final were to be held on Saturday. But after stunning not only themselves, but also the defending national champions with a one-point win over UC-Berkeley in the quarterfinals, Inscoe promptly canceled her flight.

“We went into it just hoping to get out of pool play, and basically to have fun and enjoy the experience,” Inscoe said. “But we never imagined we would actually get as far as we did and win the whole thing.”

The team was seeded third out of four teams in its pool, and was ecstatic to have just made it out of pool play. After beating Oklahoma, another unexpected pool winner, 30-13 in the round of 16, the Bulldogs faced a talented UC-Berkeley team — and won.

“We kind of flew under the radar throughout the tournament…we weren’t even one of the top half of the teams according to the rankings,” team captain Scott Slezak said.

Even the UC-Berkeley team didn’t expect to lose. According to Inscoe, the Golden Bears could be overheard scouting the match that would follow the game against Georgia.

The overconfidence of the defending national champions was met by a more relaxed attitude from the Bulldogs. Going into the match, the team knew it had nothing to lose and hoped only to play well and not allow too great of a point deficit.

The Bulldogs went into men’s singles down by nine, but senior Matt Holland, the team’s men’s singles competitor, was unfazed. Holland, who was undefeated throughout the entirety of the tournament, pulled out a 6-1 win over UC-Berkeley, reducing the team’s cumulative score deficit to only four going into the final line of mixed doubles.

“[Holland] is the most consistent player I’ve ever seen,” Inscoe said.

Inscoe was grateful for Holland’s endurance and reliable baseline play, having had to compete in the following mixed doubles match against UC-Berkeley with teammate Gordon Lucas.

The mixed doubles match came down to a final serve at the hands of Inscoe.

“It was probably the most nerve-racking serve of my life,” she said.

The Bulldogs scored the final point on Inscoe’s serve to win 21-20.

Slezak said the team’s victory left the Bulldogs, the Golden Bears and the spectators in disbelief. People were even asking to see the scorecard from the match, needing tangible proof of the defending champions defeat in the quarterfinals.

Slezak called it “an absolutely surreal moment.”

“After we knocked out Berkeley, we realized, ‘Hey, we have a legitimate chance to win this,’” Slezak said.

The Bulldogs used that momentum to beat UCLA in the semifinal with little difficulty.

The team’s championship run came down to the final match against none other than the Florida Gators. The Gators won the coin toss and were allowed to pick the order of the sets. The final round began with men’s doubles, followed by Holland competing in men’s singles and finishing his undefeated run with a 6-5 win. That set was followed by the girls’ doubles match, which the Bulldogs won 6-1, giving the team a five-game lead. Despite freshman Natalie Kieta’s 6-4 loss in girls’ singles, the team maintained a three-game lead going into the crucial round of mixed doubles.

The Bulldogs lost mixed doubles 6-4, leaving the team up by one overall. Due to a redemption rule in club tennis, the team that wins mixed doubles but is down in the overall score is allowed to try and comeback. Luckily, Inscoe’s baseline play and Lucas’ strength at the net remained consistent and prevented a Gator comeback. The Bulldogs won with a final cumulative score of 26-24 and were crowned 2013 National Champions.

“It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college sports,” Holland said about winning the championship against the Gators. “To win was great, but to beat Florida in the finals was that much better.”

The team is proud of its underdog run for the national championship, but Slezak does not attribute its success to just the time spent in Arizona. Although only eight members of the team competed in nationals, there are over fifty students that compete on the club team throughout the year.

“Even those that stayed in Athens can call themselves National Champions,” Slezak said.

Source: Red & Black

Tags:

Comments are closed.