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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wesleyan Women Claim First NCAA Division III Team Championship, Emory Men Earn Fifth Team Title with Wins Over Top Seeds CMS

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo, MI--

The NCAA Division III Team finals were delayed by three hours due to morning rain, but both were worth waiting for, with No. 3 seed Wesleyan upending top seed and defending champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a 5-4 thriller for the women's title and No. 2 seed Emory capturing its fifth men's title with a dramatic 5-3 win over top seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Wednesday at Stowe Stadium on the campus of Kalamazoo College.

Polina Kiseleva played the role of hero for Wesleyan on a warm and sunny afternoon, finishing strong in her 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win over Sydney Lee, the only three-set match of the women's final. Kiseleva may have been disappointed that she couldn't close out the match in straight sets, but her body language never reflected that.
"In the second set, to be honest, there was a lot of pressure, and it rattled me a little bit," said Kiseleva, a sophomore from Florida. "But I knew if I had a chance to reset, start over again, I would be able to pull through. I always have that feeling and it helped me in the third set."

Kiseleva also contributed to the 2-1 lead her team took after doubles, teaming with Venia Yeung to defeat Sarah Bahsoun and Nicole Tan 8-5 at line 2. CMS won at line 3, with Lee and Madison Shea beating Alexis Almy and Alissa Nakamoto 8-4. Wesleyan took line 1 doubles, with sisters Kristina Yu and Victoria Yu defeating Caroline Cox and Catherine Allen 8-6.  With Cox serving to get into a tiebreaker at 6-7, she and Allen forged a 40-0 lead, but the Yus won the final five points of the match to get that crucial point for the Cardinals.

"It was huge for Kristina and Victoria to figure out a way to get a point at 1 doubles there," said Wesleyan head coach Mike Fried. "Most all of these matches from the quarterfinals on, come down to a few points in the course of a four-hour match, but we came out on the right side of it in those few points."

CMS earned the first point in singles, with Bahsoun beating Megan Tran 6-0, 6-3 at line 6, coming from 3-1 down in the second set. At line 5, Almy, who earned the clincher in Wesleyan's 5-4 win over Emory in the semifinals, got the Cardinals back in the lead with an impressive 6-4, 6-0 win over Cox. Yeung got Wesleyan within a point of the title with her 6-0, 6-2 victory over Tan at line 2, meaning that CMS needed to win the three remaining matches on the courts.

The Athenas had won the first set in two of them, and they held those leads, with Rebecca Berger closing out Kristina Yu 6-4, 6-3 at line 3, and Allen following with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Victoria Yu at line 1.

By that time Lee was up a break on Kiseleva in the second set, as all the players and coaches from both teams headed to court 6. Lee, a freshman from California, served for the set at 5-4, but Kiseleva earned a break point when Lee double faulted for 30-40. Kiseleva missed a routine forehand putaway well long to bring it back to deuce, and on her second set point, Lee used a perfectly executed lob winner to earn the split.

Kiseleva went up 3-0 in the third set, but Lee got the break back. Before serving at 2-3, Lee took a medical timeout and was treated for cramping, and she was unable to hold in the next game, with Kiseleva hitting a laser of a backhand down the line winner to earn two break points and converting immediately when Lee's backhand went long.

Kiseleva held for 5-2, with her forehand especially effective down the stretch. With Lee serving at 2-5, she saved two match points, the second on easy overhead Kiseleva buried in the net, but Kiseleva showed no sign of frustration, and when she earned a third match point when Lee double faulted, Kiseleva aimed a forehand on the far sideline and made it. In seconds, her teammates rushed the court to share in the celebration of a first national team title, and just the school's second in any sport.

"It hasn't even sunk in yet," said Kiseleva. "The fact that I was able to do that and all my teammates were there, it was just incredible. That energy, that's what helped me keep going. I always looked to my teammates, the boys and the girls, to have that support and to be able to finish off the match, with people who love me and who I love around me."

Fried looked placid throughout the third set, in order to practice what he preaches.

"I tell the team all the time about the importance of body language, and my body language is really important," said Fried, who called Kiseleva one the best competitors he's ever been around. "I was trying to show them calmness and confidence. I felt confidence, but calmness was probably the last possible emotion. But I faked it all right I guess."

Like Kiseleva, Fried was still trying to process the past three days, in which the program earned its first Final Four appearance, first Finals appearance with a win over No. 2 seed Emory, and its first national team title with a win over top seed CMS.

"It hasn't sunk in really at all, I was too nervous for it to sink in, " Fried said. "It's a cliche, but it's surreal."

CMS coach Dave Schwartz, who had won the CMS program's first title last year with a 5-4 victory over Emory, knows how small the margins are in the final.

"Some years you have better luck than others," Schwartz said. "We kind of broke down physically there and had a little bad luck with the cramping, but look, Wesleyan outplayed us, that's the bottom line. They earned it. We were in a very close battle to win another national championship and there was a team that was .01 percent better than us, and they deserved to win the championship."

Unlike Wesleyan, Emory was stocked with players who had finals experience, with their previous national title just two years ago, also coming at the expense of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The three seniors who contributed to that title as sophomores played major roles in Emory's win Wednesday evening, with senior Jonathan Jemison clinching Emory's fifth title with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Nikolai Parodi at line 1 singles.

Senior James Spaulding partnered with Will Wanner to take No. 2 doubles 8-6 over Oscar Burney and Daniel Park of CMS, and with Hayden Cassone and Antonio Mora beating Jack Katzman and Robert Liu by the same score, Emory took a 2-1 lead into singles. Julian Gordy and Parodi had taken line 1 doubles over Jemison and senior Adrian Bouchet 8-4.

Emory head coach John Browning said Mora and Cassone's win at line 3, coming from 6-3 down, got his team going in the right direction.

"So the fact that 3 doubles turned it around really was what got us going," Browning said. "If we don't have a 2-1 lead over CMS after doubles, we're not going to win this match. And Jonathan getting a point at 1 was huge, absolutely critical."

The teams split first sets in singles, leaving CMS with the task of forcing a third set to win the match.  They did, with Daniel Park taking Andrew Esses to a third at line 5,  but Emory's Jemison put the pressure back on CMS by extending his match after being down a break in the second, and CMS could not recover.

CMS actually led 3-2, taking points in the first two singles matches to finish, with Nic Meister defeating Spaulding 6-2, 6-1 at line 6 and Katzman downing Cassone 6-2, 6-2 at line 2. Emory pulled even with Mora taking a 6-3, 6-3 decision over Liu at line 4 and took the 4-3 lead with senior Bouchet, who had clinched Emory's 5-3 win over Middlebury in the semifinals,  earning a 6-4, 6-1 win over Gordy at line 3.
With Emory leading 4-3, CMS's Park was serving for the second set just as Jemison had taken a 2-0 lead on Parodi. Park did close out the set, but Jemison lost his break, going from 2-0 up to 3-2 down.

"I was definitely down a little bit, I had lost three games, but I just kept telling myself to go back to hanging around, hanging around," said Jemison, who is from Marietta Georgia. "I didn't even know the score on court 5, I was just thinking to myself, focus here, on this match, this moment and it paid off in the long run."

Nearly every rally was long and both Jemison and Parodi looked tired as the third set continued, and it was Parodi who couldn't keep pace, dropping serve to trail 4-3. Jemison had to save a break point in a three-deuce game to earn his 5-3 advantage, and Parodi was facing a difficult hold to stay in the match. The junior from Washington DC found himself down 30-40 in the final game, and when he netted a forehand on that first match point, Jemison sprawled on the court in celebration, while his teammates still on court 5, where Esses led 5-2, sprinted to join him.

"It's incredible," said Jemison. "I can't even describe how proud I am of my team and my coaches. They were pushing me all season, every single practice, we pushed each other so hard every single practice just to have this moment together and I'm so happy for all of us right now."

Browning believes Jemison's experience on the big stage helped him when it mattered most.

"Jonathan has been struggling a little bit in the last few matches against the top players and the fact that he was able to pull that out is unbelievable," Browning said. "There's a symmetry to this season, with our three unbelievable seniors losing on these courts in the semifinals as freshmen. I told them it's only fitting that in their senior year we'd end up here winning it."

CMS coach Paul Settles gave credit to Emory for their tenacity throughout the match.

"They deserved it," Settles said. "They were tougher than we were on the big points today. It's always a huge disappointment to lose in a final, because it's a huge mountain to climb. You realize how difficult it is to get to this match, and when you lose it, it's like wow, we've worked so incredibly hard to come in second. And nobody's going to remember who finishes second. That's the tough part about it, but what I told the guys after the match is that it's about the journey, not the destination. This is phenomenal team, and we lose one senior in our starting lineup, so these guys will all be back and we'll be hungry again."

For the complete box score and results from all matches this week, see the Kalamazoo College tournament page. The singles and doubles tournaments begin Friday at Stowe Stadium and Western Michigan University's Sorenson Courts.


Guest said...

While there were 2 competitive singles matches later Wed., does anyone know why the Tennis Channel didn’t show any of the doubles? TC spent about the last hour of coverage on a singles match between 2 Spaniards. Yes, the match included the #1 seed, but why couldn’t they check in on several doubles matches at the same time. Each of the doubles matches included Americans.

If Tennis Channel isn’t going to cover doubles matches on the main bank of courts (1-6), will the USTA please turn on the PlaySight video stream, so those of us interested in watching aren’t blacked out. Playsight was available on courts 7-12 during Tennis Channel coverage, but those courts weren’t in use.

fan said...

TC didn't show later doubles? Those were played on TV courts.

My beef is on showing too few matches at stream courts lol(I can't watch TC, unlike ESPN). All earlier doubles matches were streamed, but not one singles match.
Oh UCLA vs Clemson wasn't even streamed.

fan said...

No singles will be streamed either today, and since doubles start late, not sure they'll be streamed either. Worse coverage than last year for those who can't watch TC.