Kohlloeffel and Cohen Win ITA Indoor Championships; Georgia and William and Mary Capture Doubles Titles
©Colette Lewis 2006--
Defending champion Ben Kohlloeffel of UCLA produced his best tennis of the week Sunday afternoon, reeling off ten straight games on his way to defeating Ohio State's Steven Moneke 6-0, 6-4 at the ITA Indoor Championships at The Racquet Club of Columbus.
Audra Cohen of Miami had a tougher road, dropping the first set, but she rebounded to take her second national singles title with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Jelena Pandzic of Fresno Pacific.
Kohlloeffel couldn't miss in the first set, serving and volleying and drilling ground stroke winners at every chance. The hundred or so Buckeye fans supporting Moneke, who hadn't lost a set in the tournament, never had a chance to supply any energy to the sophomore from Germany.
"He didn't give me any time to attack," said Moneke, a friend of net-rushing lefthander from their days playing tennis in Germany. "He took every ball so early."
"I surprised myself," said Kohlloeffel, the 2006 NCAA champion who is 58-5 over the last two seasons. "Every so often you have those times when you don't miss, but you see how fast it can go."
Down 4-0 in the second set, Moneke allowed himself a smile when he held serve for the first time in the match, and when he broke the UCLA senior in his next two service games to even the set, the crowd began to voice hope for a third set.
"He returned better, and put pressure on my serve," said Kohlloeffel of the Moneke comeback.
But it was a short-lived glimmer of hope. Moneke was broken at 4-4, and Kohlloeffel slammed the door.
The two friends embraced at the net, and while waiting for photographs, exchanged notes on the match, their first encounter outside of practice.
"I thought it would be fun," said Moneke, who admitted that he had hoped Kohlloeffel would be his opponent in the final. "But it was more fun for him than for me."
In the first set of the women's final, played an adjacent court at the same time as the men's, Cohen, the second seed, fought back from an early break in the first set, but was unable to hold off the NAIA champion. Serving at 5-6, Cohen saved two set points with serve winners, but Pandzic countered those with ground stroke winners of her own and took the first set.
But Cohen, the ITA Player of the year in 2006, didn't panic, and made a strategic change that turned the match in her favor.
"She hit the ball better on the run than when she was standing still," said Cohen, who had never faced Pandzic before. "If you get her on the run and she's out wide, she can scream a winner down the line or scream a winner cross court. So a lot of points I was just slicing cross court, a very neutral ball, and she was having more trouble with that, getting a little impatient and going for big shots."
At 3-3 in the second set, Cohen got the break she needed, and although she faced a break point in the next game, she held and used a forehand winner and an ace in her next service game to square the match.
For the sixth seeded Pandzic, who had won 49 straight matches, it was the first set she had lost in that span, but another would soon follow. Cohen jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, and Pandzic sensed that her streak was about to end.
"It's hard to break her," said Pandzic, who reached the 2004 final at the NCAAs while a freshman at Fresno State. "She has a big serve and big forehand and she's more aggressive with those shots. She played well today, all credit to her."
Cohen did have a slight hiccup when she was broken serving at 4-1 in the third, but Pandzic immediately gave it back, giving Cohen the chance to serve out the match. An ace, a Pandzic error and a service winner later, Cohen stood on the threshold of her second national singles title to go with the All-American championship in 2004, and she earned it when, after a long rally, Pandzic hit a volley long.
Cohen let out a loud "c'mon," and trotted to the net to accept congratulations from Pandzic, who was the first Small College Champion to reach the final using the ITA wild card.
In doubles, the fourth-seeded team of Megan Moulton-Levy and Katarina Zoricic of William and Mary captured the first national doubles title for the school when they defeated the unseeded TCU team of Ana Cetnik and Anna Sydorska 8-3. Zoricic and Moulton-Levy have been playing together since their junior days, and the teamwork they displayed looked like second nature to them. Zoricic was the only player who did not drop her serve, and her net play was also flawless. She and Moulton-Levy are now setting their sights on May.
"Our goals are to keep improving day to day and then to win the NCAAs in the spring," said Zoricic.
"She got that exactly right," said Moulton-Levy. "Two good goals."
For Isner and Flores, the operative number isn't two but three. The University of Georgia pair will be seeking the college triple crown when the NCAAs come to Athens next spring after their tense 9-8 (4) win over Middle Tennessee State's Marco Born and Andreas Siljestrom.
Isner, Born and Siljestrom are all 6-foot-9, so it was not unexpected that serves would dominate the match. Isner and Flores never faced a break point, and Born and Siljestrom only one in the sixteen games played and they brushed that aside.
In the tiebreak, it was Flores who blinked first. Serving at 3-3, Flores couldn't handle a second serve returned at his feet, and Born and Siljestrom had the opportunity to serve it out. But Born netted his first volley on the ensuing point to make it 4-4 and when Flores cracked a return winner on Born's next serve, it was the Georgia team in the driver's seat, with Isner serving next.
The senior righthander, who won the 2005 NCAA doubles title with Antonio Ruiz, didn't get either of his first serves in, but won both points, the last one on his sizzling forehand winner.
Isner and Flores won the All-American championships in Tulsa last month, garnering the top seed at the Indoor, and are beginning to hit their stride as a team.
"At the All-American, we were pretty shaky in the first round," said Isner, "but we got better every match. We came in here with a lot of confidence, knowing that if we played our game we'd be tough to beat."
Born and Siljestrom, finalists at last year's Indoor Championships, were also tough to beat.
"That doubles team," said Georgia coach Manny Diaz, pointing at the towering pair posing for photographs, "is one of the best teams we've seen. We were fortunate to beat such a great team."
Three consolation titles were decided Sunday morning. In doubles, Suzi Babos and Zsuzsanna Fodor of California defeated Catrina and Christian Thompson of Notre Dame 8-6. The women's singles consolation winner was Stanford's Celia Durkin, who outlasted Fodor 6-2, 6-7 (1), 7-5. The men's consolation winner was Ken Skupski of LSU, who downed Arnau Brugues of Tulsa 6-3, 6-3. The men's consolation doubles winners were Notre Dame's Ryan Keckley and Sheeva Parbhu, who defeated Alex Cojanu and Colin O'Brien of William and Mary 8-5 Saturday afternoon.
For full draws see itatennis.com