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Duke Women Shut Out California For National Title

May 8, 2009 02:11 PM

Duke University seniors Melissa Mang of New Orleans, La. and Jessi Robinson earned singles victories within minutes of each other to lead the Blue Devils to a 4-0 sweep of No. 8 California in the NCAA Women’s Tennis National Championship match. Duke captures its first national title in women’s tennis and 10th overall national trophy in school history.

Sophomore Reka Zsilinszka of Fayetteville, N.C. was selected as the NCAA Tournament Most Valuable Player. Junior Amanda Granson of Hilton Head, S.C. and Mang joined her on the all-tournament team at the No. 4 and No. 5 singles spots. Southerner Mallory Cecil of Spartanburg, S.C. also won her match.

“It’s unbelievable,” Robinson said. “I don’t even have any words to describe the feeling. I love these girls and it’s an amazing feeling.”

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but it’s unbelievable,” Mang said. “I’m just so proud of these girls. To win this with Jess [Robinson] in our senior year is amazing. I could not ask for anything better.”

Duke turned in its 18th consecutive win and 29th victory of the season in the title match to close out a memorable NCAA Tournament run. The third-seeded Blue Devils’ 29 wins is the second most in program history, while its 18-match win streak to close out the year also ranks second.

“[This team] is unbelievably resilient,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “I’m so proud of them. I couldn’t ask for more out of these girls. We grinded out most of the year with six players and you can’t ask for anything more than what they gave every single day at practice and matches. To come through like they did today and beat a great Cal team, it’s just unbelievable.”

Leading 2-0, the Blue Devils looked as if they had control of the match. After taking the first set easily 6-2, Robinson fell behind 4-1 in the second set to Marion Ravelojaona. The senior co-captain dug deep and started to claw her way back into the set and getting back on serve. After tying the match 4-4, the Rehoboth Beach, Del., native took the next two games to make it 3-0 in Duke’s favor.

Just moments later Mang was set for championship point. Looking to serve out the match for the national title, Mang turned in a forehand winner to end the match and give Duke its first national title.

“I had no idea that I was about to clinch the match, so I was surprised when everyone came running up to me,” Mang said.

Mang closes out her season with a 35-7 record and a winner in all four of her NCAA Tournament matches. Her 35 wins is a career-best as she closes out her career with 106 singles wins.

The Blue Devils championship effort began by capturing the crucial doubles point. Similar to the semifinal match, Duke fell behind early, but rallied to come back and take two of the three doubles matches.

The No. 3 pair of Zsilinszka and Ellah Nze stepped on the court confident and raced to an early lead. They rode the momentum to an 8-4 win. Looking to clinch the match, the second doubles tandem of Cecil and Robinson battled hard and earned a break midway through the match. They built on the lead to earn an 8-5 win for the 1-0 overall lead.

Looking to carry the energy from doubles to singles, Duke jumped all over the Bears. The Blue Devils took five first sets, losing just six games overall on the four courts.

In previous action ...
The Duke University women’s tennis team continued its roll through the NCAA Division I Tennis Championships with a 5-2 win over No. 2 Georgia in the semifinals. The third-seeded Blue Devils will take on No. 8 California in the NCAA Championship match on May 19 at 7 p.m. (ET), on ESPNU.

Duke (28-3) advances to the NCAA Championship match for the second time in program history, losing to Florida 5-1 in 1998. The Blue Devils’ 28 wins this season ranks second all-time in program history, while their current 17-match win streak also is second. Duke is now 44-20 in NCAA Tournament action, including an impressive 35-10 under current head coach Jamie Ashworth.

“I thought we did a really good job in doubles and fighting our way back into matches,” Ashworth said. “It set the tone for our whole team throughout the entire match in doubles and singles. We weren’t going to give up any points. Georgia is a great team and we just match up really well with them. This win means a lot to them and to our program. It says a lot about their character. They are tough. We are one of two teams playing another day, so we are excited.”

The national title match against California will be a rematch of the 2008 NCAA Tournament round of 16 contest. The Bears edged the Blue Devils 4-3 last year to end Duke’s season. It will be the eighth overall meeting between the two teams with Duke holding a 5-2 advantage in the series. The two squads have met twice in NCAA Tournament action. Duke defeated the Bears 5-0 in the 1997 quarterfinals, while California earned the win in 2008.

The second-seeded Georgia Lady Bulldogs will face the third-seeded Lady Blue Devils from Duke in asemifinal match in the NCAA Division I Tennis Championships May 18 in College Station, Tex.

With the elimination of top-seeded Northwestern by California in the quarterfinals, the two Southern squads are highest-ranked teams remaining.

In other women's matches, Georgia eliminated South Carolina in the quarterfinals. Clemson and Georgia Tech were stopped in the round of 16.

In the men's competition, all four Southern teams were eliminated in the in the last two rounds. Second-seed Ole Miss lost to UCLA and Georgia fell to Texas in the quarterfinals. Wake Forest and Tennessee were eliminated in the round of 16.

In previous competition ...Georgia lead the way for Southern colleges as both of their teams advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Division I 2009 Tennis Championships with two victories last weekend.

Ten Southern teams advanced in regional play. Teams of note who are also advancing are the No. 3-seeded women’s Duke Blue Devils and the No. 2-seeded men’s team from Ole Miss.

The last three rounds of the championships will be played in College Station, Tex. May 17-19.

DI MEN’S TEAMS & SEED

OPPONENT & SEED

(2) Mississippi

(15) Texas A & M

(4) Georgia

(13) Illinois

(5) Tennessee

(12) Texas

(Unseeded) Wake Forest

(6) Baylor



DI WOMEN’S TEAMS & SEED

OPPONENT & SEED

(2) Georgia

(15) Florida

(3) Duke

(14) Arkansas

(9) Georgia Tech

(8) California

(12) Clemson

(5) Notre Dame

(14) Arkansas

(3) Duke

(Unseeded) South Carolina

(Unseeded) Washington

 

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