UCLA beats Duke to win ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship

February 14, 2012 07:33 AM
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The 2012 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va., came to a close on Monday with the championship match. At the end of the day, it was UCLA who was able to claim its first ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship crown with a highly competitive 4-0 victory over Duke.

The doubles point alone lasted more than 90 minutes. On court two, Duke's Beatrice Capra and Rachel Kahan broke for a 2-1 lead against the No. 12 duo in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton. Anderson held to open the match, but the Bruin duo did not claim another game until Capra and Kahan reeled off seven straight. Kahan held serve at 7-2 to close out the victory. On court one, No. 23 in the Campbell/ITA Rankings Courtney Dolehide and Pamela Montez claimed an early 3-0 lead against Ester Goldfeld and Mary Clayton. The Blue Devils tandem continued to apply pressure on the Bruins by staying within one break the entire match, but Dolehide and Montez remained strong on serve throughout. UCLA took the match at the first spot 8-4.

McCall Jones and Carling Seguso of UCLA were matched up against Hanna Mar and Annie Mulholland from Duke at the third spot. Both pairs got out to a shaky start, trading early breaks. The Bruins surged ahead 4-2 with a break of Mulholland, but Jones couldn't consolidate the break. The Blue Devils took a 5-4 lead, with a break in hand, looking to seize momentum in the match; however, Mulholland was broken, evening the match at 5-5. Jones held for a 6-5 advantage after Mulholland pushed an easy volley wide, and the doubles point seemed in hand for UCLA when Mar double faulted on a break point.
The momentum swings weren't done yet in the match, though, as Mar and Mulholland played a solid return game to stay alive by breaking serve. Duke was forced to save match point with Mulholland serving down 7-6, but the Blue Devils were able to even the score at 7-7. It was the Bruins who were forced to save a break point in the next game with Jones serving; UCLA was able to do so to inch ahead 8-7. With Mar serving, she and Mulholland took the first three points of the game, looking poised to force a tiebreak. The net play of Duke suddenly became erratic, netting multiple volleys to allow Jones and Seguso to reach another match point. Mar missed her first serve, and after seeming hesitant to hit her second serve, finally went after the toss, only to serve up a double fault and hand UCLA the doubles point.

"The doubles match at three had a lot of momentum shifts," UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster said. "We were up 5-2, then it was 5-5, then we were up 7-5. We had our two seniors out there, and we knew we could depend on them because they have been there before. They did a good job of staying with the plan. It was very exciting for them to clinch the point for us. The freshmen have really been amazing this week, but today was a total team effort. Everyone contributed today. We needed four points to win the match. Everyone competed well today, and that was the difference."

The Bruins seized command on three singles courts early on, cruising through first sets on courts one, two and four. In the battle, two freshmen ranked in the top 10 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, UCLA's Anderson breezed past Duke's Capra 6-1. On the next court, the Bruins' Jones, ranked No. 68 in the Campbell/ITA Rankings, had little trouble closing out the first set against No. 38 Mar 6-1. Court four was the final court that UCLA surged ahead quickly on, as Morton took the set 6-3 from Kahan, No. 118 in the Campbell/ITA Rankings.

The first singles match to be completed was at the six spot, an unlikely candidate considering the first-set score was 7-5 in favor of UCLA's Kaitlyn Ray. Blue Devil Monica Turewicz, ranked No. 35 in the Campbell/ITA Rankings, got out to a quick start, but let the lead slip away. Turewicz fell behind Ray in the second 2-0, and while she didn't let Ray run away with the set, she was never able to even the score. Each player held her serve the rest of the way, with the match ending when Ray held at 5-4 to secure the win in two sets.

All five of the remaining singles matches went the distance. UCLA appeared just a few points away from clinching the championship, as freshmen Morton and Chanelle Van Nguyen were both up a break in their final sets. Van Nguyen lost the opening set to Duke's Clayton, No. 66 in the Campbell/ITA Singles Rankings, but sprinted out to a 5-0 lead in the second. The hard-hitting Blue Devil dictated play in the first set, but let Van Nguyen get on top of the majority of the rallies in the second. Clayton clawed her way back to 4-5 in the second but could not pull even, as Van Nguyen forced the match into a third set. Much like the second set, the Bruin freshman held a big lead but struggled to secure the victory. Down 5-2 but continuing to go for her shots, Clayton got the decisive set back to 5-4 in favor of Van Nguyen, who was able to successfully serve out the match and move the Bruins to a 3-0 advantage in the overall match score.

With both teams so heavily dependent on freshmen contributions this season, it seemed only fitting that the clinching point would come from the battle of each team's top freshman at the first position. The match appeared to be shaping into a similar match between Anderson and Capra in the fall at the 2011 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, N.Y. In that match, Anderson claimed the first set easily but dropped a tight second set, eventually losing the match 8-6 in the third set tiebreak. This time, the second set wasn't quite as competitive, but once again it was Capra who was able to regain her solid play and force a third set.

Anderson looked to be in serious trouble in the opening game of the third set, down 15-40 and facing an opponent who was on a roll. Anderson used her big serve and powerful groundstrokes to fight off the break points and hold serve. Fired up by escaping the early trouble in the set, Anderson dug deep in the next game, able to break the serve of Capra. The Bruin freshman extended her lead to 4-1 in the set, but Capra continued to fight for each point, retrieving numerous big shots from the racquet of Anderson. In the end, Anderson was the player dictating the points, and she was able to consistently hit through the defense of Capra to take the match 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 to clinch the championship trophy for her team.

"We had to fight back all day," Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth explained. "The match at three doubles was kind of like the match overall. We were finally able to get even late in that match but then gave away some points. We just had to play from behind all day. We were never able to get momentum against them. When we looked up at the scoreboard, we just really never had hope, even when we were able to win four second sets. UCLA did a great job of staying in front and really made us earn every point we got. It is a shame someone will look at the score and see 4-0 and think they really beat us badly because there were a lot of close matches out there that didn't finish."