Tennessee Men, Georgia Tech Women Win Conference Championships

April 26, 2010 10:38 AM

Four end-of-season conference championship were played and the Tennessee men won the SEC title while the Georgia Tech women won the ACC title.

Tennessee trumps Florida 4-0 to claim SEC Men's Tennis Championship
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Behind another impressive all-around performance in singles and doubles, the tournament top-seed University of Tennessee men's tennis team claimed a 4-0 victory over No. 2-seeded Florida for the Southeastern Conference Championship at the Hilary. J. Boone Tennis Complex on Sunday.

The victory is the third SEC Championship for the Volunteers and the first since claiming the title in 2002. UT junior John-Patrick Smith was named the most valuable player of the SEC Tournament. Tennessee junior Boris Conkic, Florida freshmen Sekou Bangoura and Bob Van Overbeek, Auburn junior Tim Puetz and Ole Miss sophomore Marcel Thiemann were named to the all-tournament team.

Tennessee took a 1-0 advantage after claiming the doubles point with victories at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles.  The eight-ranked Tennessee duo of Conkic and Rhyne Williams clinched the doubles point by posting an 8-5 victory over No. 51 Joseph Burkhardt and Bangoura at No. 2 doubles.  The Vols also earned the win at No. 1 doubles when the No. 4 tandem of Smith and Davey Sandgren defeated Florida's No. 14-ranked duo of Antoine Benneteau and Alexandre Lacroix 8-3. Florida won at No. 3 doubles when Overbeek and Daniel Cash took down Matteo Fago and Ed Jones 8-6.

Tennessee pushed its lead to 3-0 when the Vols scored wins at Nos. 1 and 5 singles. In the day's most anticipated singles contest, Tennessee's Smith, the nation's No. 1 singles player, defeated the No. 5-ranked Lacroix of Florida, 6-2, 6-1 at No.1 singles. Tennessee's Fago followed suit at No. 5 singles, defeating Florida's Nassim Slilam in straight sets 6-3, 6-1.

After rain suspended play for 45 minutes, Tennessee wrapped up the championship indoors when No. 37-ranked Conkic of Tennessee defeated No. 113 Burkhardt 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.

Singles matches at Nos. 3, 4 and 5 were in progress when Tennessee clinched the championship. At No. 3 singles, No. 44 Williams led Benneteau 6-4, 4-1 in the second set while Florida's Van Overbeek led No. 114 Tennys Sandgren 7-6 (16-14), 1-1 when the match was abandoned. The match between Bangoura and Davey Sandgren was tied at one set apiece with Sandgren winning the first 6-2 and Bangoura winning the second 6-1.

Florida downs Tennessee in 2010 SEC Women's Championship
ATHENS, Ga. - The top-seeded Florida Gators defended their conference regular-season crown by capturing the 2010 SEC Women’s Tennis Championship by a 4-1 score over third-seeded Tennessee Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

The Gators are now guaranteed a bid to the 2010 NCAA Championships, winning their 16th SEC Tournament title in 21 trips to the finals.

Florida won the doubles point, first receiving a win on court three by the team of Caroline Hitimana and Anastasia Revzina, 8-5, over Tennessee’s team of Natalie Pluskota and Jennifer Meredith. The Gators quickly won the match on court two as 69th-ranked Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather upset the Lady Vols’ 24th-ranked pair of Rosalia Alda and Zsofia Zubor, 8-3, to pick up the doubles point. The court one match between No. 4 Marrit Boonstra and Allie Will of UF and 11th-ranked Caitlin Whoriskey and Maria Sorbello of UT was suspended with Tennessee up 6-5.

The Lady Vols pulled even at 1-1 with a quick win on court four as Zubor defeated No. 119 Revzina, 6-4, 6-3. That was Florida’s first loss in a match all weekend as they had defeated both of their previous opponents by 4-0 scores.

The Gators took a 2-1 lead as 75th-ranked Boonstra defeated Alda, 6-2, 7-5, before the lead increased to 3-1 with seventh-ranked Will’s 7-5, 6-2 win over No. 58 Sorbello on court two.

The clincher then came on court six as Hitimana rebounded from a 6-3 loss in the second set to down Kata Szekely, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to give the Gators the 4-1 advantage and the tournament title.

Boonstra was named Tournament MVP.

Georgia Tech women defeat North Carolina for AAC title
CARY, N.C. – Georgia Tech put an exclamation point on a weekend of upsets Sunday afternoon, and the Yellow Jackets’ improbable march to the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Championship is complete.

Dramatic three-set wins by Lynn Blau at the No. 4 spot and ACC Player of the Year Irina Falconi at No.1 spelled the difference as the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets buzzed past top-seeded and top-ranked North Carolina for a 4-3 win in the title match at Cary Tennis Park.

Georgia Tech (18-9) became the lowest seed ever to capture an ACC Women’s Tennis Championship and earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, which gets under way May 14.

The Yellow Jackets won their fourth ACC title and first since winning three straight from 2005 through 2007. They did so by winning four matches without the benefit of a first-round bye and had to go through second-seeded and11th-ranked Miami in the quarterfinals before edging third-seeded and eighth-ranked Clemson in the semifinals.

Then came Sunday’s win over UNC (26-4), a team that had won 13 straight matches and had not lost against ACC opposition this season.

“It was quite a journey,” marveled Falconi, who was named the Championship MVP after outlasting fellow All-ACC player Sanaz Marand 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the final match. That victory, coupled with Blau’s 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Gina Suarez-Malaguti, rallied Georgia Tech from a 3-2 deficit.

But Coach Bryan Shelton liked the determination and competitive fire his underdog squad showed from the start. The Yellow Jackets seized the early momentum by wining the doubles point, and freshman Elizabeth Kilborn’s straight-set win over Sophie Grabiniski at No. 5 allowed Georgia Tech to keep hope alive until the exciting finish.

“The girls just believed enough.” Shelton said. “To come here after the season we’ve had and to go through the toughest part of the draw … and then to make it to this point and actually seize the opportunity is just incredible.

“I just can’t say enough about this team and their heart.”

The match-clinching win was the 20th straight for Falconi, who has been ranked No. 1 nationally throughout the season.

“Irina was pushed today, but there at the end she was able to come through,” Shelton said. “She has been our rock all year, and she is so deserving of winning the clinching match at the ACC Tournament.”

Shelton believes Georgia Tech could be joined by as many as seven other ACC teams in the NCAA field.

“North Carolina has an amazing team, and they are certainly deserving of all the success they have had this year,” Shelton said. “We played so many tough matches through the season and had some tough losses. But that’s how it is in this conference. This conference is loaded.”

Duke men reach AAC final, fall to Virginia
CARY, N.C. - Virginia maintained its stronghold on the Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Tennis Championship with a 4-2 win over second-seeded Duke in Sunday's title match at Cary Tennis Park.

The ACC title was the fourth straight and the sixth in seven years for the Cavaliers (35-1), who have now won 61 consecutive matches against conference opposition. As the nation's top-ranked team, Virginia has designs on a No. 1 national seeding when NCAA Tournament pairings are announced May 4.

"This always a great accomplishment," Virginia coach Brian Boland said. "We have such a great respect for all the ACC teams and all the programs across the league. The depth of the conference now is stronger than ever, so to win the championship is just as meaningful as the first one we won back in 2004. I am really proud of the guys. They worked hard all year. They had their sights set on several goals, and this was certainly one of them. Now we are now looking forward to the NCAA Tournament in front of us."

After capturing the doubles point, the Cavaliers put the match away with singles wins from Jamere Jenkins at No. 3, Drew Courtney at No. 4, and Houston Barrick at No. 5.

But the Blue Devils (18-8) pushed Virginia hard. Courtney's win over Torsten Wietoska required a three-set tie-breaker, and Barrick's win over Jared Pinksy also went three sets. ACC Player and Freshman of the Year Henrique Cunha scored a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over fellow top-10 ranked opponent Michael Shabaz at No. 1, and Luke Machese won a three-set battle with the Cavaliers' Lee Singer at No. 6.

"We had so many matches out there that could have gone either way," said Barrick, who was named the Championship MVP after his 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1 win over Pinsky clinched the match for the Cavaliers. "Duke is such a talented team, and they fought us all the way. I am sure we are going to see them down the road."

Boland praised the efforts of Barrick, a senior co-captain who has never been played in a losing match against ACC opposition and has been part of 129 team wins during his career.

"You don't see many players with the mental perseverance and mental toughness that Houston Barrck has," Boland said. "He lost the first set today, and it didn't even faze him. He's very special. In my 14 years as a head coach, I can count on one hand the players I've had who were competitors at his level.

"I've had the good fortune to coach him for four years, and I will take him for a few more weeks as we head into the NCAA Tournament."