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Monday, May 19, 2008

Cal and UCLA Rivalry Continues in National Championship Match Tuesday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

They've split their previous two matches 4-3, but when UCLA and Cal-Berkeley play the rubber match on Tuesday, it will be for more than Pac 10 bragging rights, as the winner will have earned its first National Championship in women's tennis. Seventh seeded UCLA took down No. 6 Florida 4-2 and No. 8 Cal outlasted fifth ranked Baylor 4-3 to earn their spots in the finals Tuesday afternoon.

The weather in Tulsa, ideal over the tournament's first four days, was more of what was expected during the noon semifinals--low 90s and a hot, steady breeze. The conditions should have favored the teams from Waco, Texas and Gainesville, Florida, but in the deciding match at No. 2 singles, it was Cal freshman Marina Cossou who proved the cooler customer.

After dropping the first set 7-5 to the hard-hitting Ormond, Cossou, also a freshman, took the second set 6-1 and got an early break in the third. Ormond had taken a medical timeout for cramping, and, down 4-2 in the third, took an emergency bathroom break. It didn't bother Cossou, as the right-hander from France took it as a sign of Ormond's fatigue.

"I was very surprised because I didn't know we could go to the toilets at 4-2, but maybe she wanted to go to the bathroom because she's very tired," said Cossour. "So I think it's a big advantage for me. She'd asked for the trainer two games before. So I just tried to stay focused and move around, to jump, and when she came back, I was ready to play."

"I think we realized Ormond was really struggling physically," said Cal's first-year head coach Amanda Augustus, who won two NCAA doubles title as a player at Cal. "Neither one of us knew she could take a bathroom break, but I asked the chair and he said if it's an emergency, she can take one bathroom break. But Marina does a really good job of keeping her focus on what's she's doing. I just reminded her of what the game plan was, because every time Ormond took a break, she came back and blasted a few forehands. The girl has quite a forehand."

Cossou completed Cal's victory 6-2 in the third, seemingly oblivious to the pressure of being the deciding match, and also contributed to Cal domination of the doubles point, posting a win at No. 2 with Claire Ilcinkas, to go with the Bears victory at No. 1.

The singles started out very close with Baylor taking first sets at 1, 2, and 3, while Cal had taken the first sets at 4, 5, 6. Ilcinkas gave Cal point number two, with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Jana Bielikova, but Baylor got on the board with a 7-5, 6-1 win by Zuznaa Zemenova at No. 1 over Susie Babos in a battle of two former NCAA champions. Baylor tied it when Lenka Broosova took down Christy Visico at No. 3 6-3, 6-2, and took the lead with Jelena Stanivuk's 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Stephanie Kusano. But Cal was in good position, up a break in the two remaining matches, and Bear Bojana Bobusic closed out Karolina Filipiak at 6-3, 6-4 at No. 6 to set the stage for Cossou's clinching win.

Only seconds before Cossou put the Bears in the final, UCLA had earned their finals berth, with Liz Lumpkin doing the honors for the Bruins at No. 5 singles. Just as in the case of Cal, the clincher had also contributed to the doubles point, as Lumpkin and Stephanie Wetmore had taken their match at No. 2 singles, to help hand Florida its first doubles loss of the season.

"When we had our team meeting, we knew they had never lost a doubles point, and that was our goal, to win this doubles point, because they've never been in a position being down 1-0," said UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster. "To put them in a position to win 4 out of 6 singles from our team is tough."

Once Alex McGoodwin and Yasmin Schnack had completed the sweep with an 8-5 win at No. 2, Florida was forced to do just that. When Reza Zalameda quickly put the second Bruin point on the board with a dominating 6-2, 6-1 win over Julia Cohen at No. 1, it was looking more and more unlikely that the Gators would prevail.

But Megan Alexander dealt UCLA's Yasmin Schnack her first lost in ten NCAA matches at No. 3 with a 6-4, 6-3 win and Anastasia Revzina pulled them even with a win over McGoodwin at No. 6 by the same score. When freshman Andrea Remynse gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Whitney Benik, it was up to Gator Marrit Boonstra at No. 5 to keep the Gators alive, and hope that teammate Csilla Borsanyi could win the last two sets from UCLA's Tracy Lin at No. 2, with the second set in its early stages. Boonstra, a freshman from Holland, had taken the second set from Lumpkin 6-2, but got down 3-0, two breaks, in the third and could not find the court with her serve. After Lumpkin, who took every opportunity to close the net and finish the point, held for 5-1, Boonstra held, and the marathon final game with Lumpkin serving for it at 5-2 began.

"I knew she wasn't going to take any risk or chances," said Lumpkin, a senior from Illinois. "It wasn't a matter of trying to wait for her to miss--I had to make her miss. I had several match points, but the strategy was the right thing, and I knew I had to execute, so I just kept going at it, got one and got my part done."

The "several" match points were actually six, with Boonstra handcuffing Lumpkin at the net several times, but eventually the aggressive tactics paid off for Lumpkin, who spoke of the value of having reached the finals last year.

"We can't live off last year, although it helped set up the belief system that we can win a national championship," Lumpkin said. "Although the mentality is a little different, we feel like we're prepared, and we know we have to work as hard as we can to take this championship. They're not going to give it to us."

Cal coach Augustus is excited about the prospect of taking on the Bruins for a third time.

"It's great for our conference. I played in the Pac 10...and I'm honored to now be coaching in that conference," said Augustus, who took over from Jan Brogan, Cal's coac for 29 years prior to retiring last summer. "I've know Stella since I started playing tennis, so I have a lot of respect for Stella and her program at UCLA. It's exciting."

For complete results of the women's semifinals, see the Tulsa website.


Austin said...

I picked UCLA to win it all before the tournament and I still think that. Todays match will probably be extremely close, 4-2 or 4-3, but I think the Bruins get it done.

Thomas Marsh said...

The Baylor - Cal match highlighted the ridiculous situation that is allowed to exist in college tennis (in some schools far more than others) wherein 12 players can take the court and only 2 of them are American. In the case of one of those teams, there are no Americans.

I'm not one of those people who dont want foreign players in college tennis, I think that's just plain stupid. They contribute a lot and they help to raise the standard of competition. But I think it is absolutely absurd for teams to actively shun recruiting Americans (how many have Baylor had in the last 10 years). I firmly believe that if we are to rebuild tennis' reputation and increase its popularity here in America we have to create situations where Americans can identify with players and teams. That just isnt going to happen if they look at teams and all they can see are players from other countries filling the rosters. A few in each team is cool and would help keep the standard high but not anywhere from 70-100%.

When I lived in Germany they had a tennis league which was incredibly strong and included players who would go on to professional careers. They allowed foreigners to compete but were strict on the number. They felt that a spot on the team line-up should be something a young German could aspire to and if they saw a team filled with internationals they would feel that there was no place for them at the club or in the game. They also believed that the club owed a debt to the game locally and restricting foreign participation was the cost. In so doing they would be more proactive in developing the game locally (coaches who didn't and just relied on recruiting were found out and didnt last long). It's a system which works and not simply because of some national quirk.

I know that a lot of people say America is a free market and that's sort of true. But we are also a primary producer that provides subsidies to our agricultural industry to protect them against stronger and more aggressive foreign competition. College tennis should be no different.