North Carolina Claims 2013 ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (Feb.11) – The 2013 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 Monday evening with the Tar Heels of North Carolina being crowned champions for the first time in school history. Sixth seeded Carolina knocked-off top seeds and defending champions UCLA, 4-3.
UCLA began today’s match in good form, claiming the doubles point with wins at the first and third spots. Freshmen duo Kyle McPhillips and Catherine Harrison won the first doubles match of the day, as they broke early and often to earn an 8-4 victory at the third position. No. 16 Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton got off to a fast start at the first spot, taking an early 4-1 lead but Carolina would make it close as they got to within a break of the Bruins before UCLA closed it out at 8-6.
“UCLA played unbelievable in doubles” said North Carolina head coach Brian Kalbas. “They are so aggressive and they move and volley really well. I was glad it was only one point but I think the fact that we came back and won four singles matches after losing the doubles point against USC gave us the thought we could do it again.” In a similar position as they were against USC in quarterfinals, North Carolina knew there was a lot of work ahead of them.
The Bruins would go up 2-0 behind a 6-4, 6-0 win by Chanelle Van Nguyen at fourth singles but a change in momentum occurred early in the matches in favor of the Tar Heels as they won four first sets. “In singles we got off to some good starts” said Kalbas. “I thought it was important that we seized the momentum after losing the doubles point.”
Gina Suarez-Malaguti put the first Carolina point on the board as she delivered the tournament’s largest upset by taking down the 2012 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships singles winner Robin Anderson, who, previously had an unblemished singles record this season. “Gina beating Robing, that’s amazing” said Kalbas. “She has never played higher than five in our lineup so for her to beat a Top 10 player is an amazing accomplishment for her. She’s come a long way.” Taking advantage of several short ball opportunities along with a flurry of big, Suarez-Malaguti was able to dictate play from start to finish, winning in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.
Tessa Lyons evened the match at 2-2 as she closed out her match in straight sets at sixth singles, 6-1, 6-4. Shortly following her victory, teammate Caroline Price made it 3-2 by pulling out a three set win at fifth singles, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. All eyes were then focused on Zoe De Bruycker and Whitney Kay who were locked-in a pair of three set battles at second and third singles respectively.
Not going away without a fight, UCLA freshman Kyle McPhillips seized control of the third set against De Bruycker as she raced to a 4-1 lead. De Bruycker continued to fight, but the diversity in McPhillips’ game proved to be too much as UCLA evened the match at 3-3. Then, things got interesting.
With the title on the line, it all came down to third singles where Whitney Kay and Pamela Montez were deep into a very competitive third set. Both players had provided their teams with huge wins this tournament with Kay earning the deciding point against USC and Montez against Georgia.
At 5-4 in the third, Kay had an opportunity to break Montez and seal the win for the Tar Heels, but a missed forehand swinging volley allowed for the UCLA senior to eventually hold serve. “I had a shot that I almost never miss on match point at 5-4 but I was just trying to think: one point at a time and not to think about the crowd or anything but to just pull it out” stated Kay. With an opportunity spoiled, both players would hold serve, leading to a tiebreak which would decide who would be crowned champions.
In the breaker, Kay got out to a 4-1 lead but Montez would win two straight to make it 4-3. Kay would then win the next two points, including a point at 5-3 when Montez broke a string early in the point, forcing her to not play any type of offensive tennis.
Montez would save back-to-back match points, bringing the score to 6-5. “The thing about Montez is that she didn’t make any mistakes, there are no unforced errors on her part so Whitney had to win it.” On Kay’s third match point of the breaker, she would eventually breakthrough for the win as she smacked a clean forehand winner to give the Tar Heels their first ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship title in school history. “Whitney stayed solid, stayed composed and it was really just unbelievable to watch” Kalbas said. “Our program is now a national championship contender and we hope to stay there.”