The AUM women's tennis team defeated Fresno Pacific 5-3 to earn the 2011 NAIA Women's Tennis National Championship.
Women's Tennis - Sat, May. 21, 2011
----- Despite playing the entire season with only five players on its roster, the Auburn University at Montgomery women's tennis team captured its 11th national championship in the program's history, as Morgane Zowczak sealed a 5-3 victory over Fresno Pacific in the NAIA Women's Tennis National Championship on Saturday at the Mobile Tennis Center.
Zowczak captured a three-set victory over Cristina Valladares, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, to earn the deciding point, for the Lady Senators.
"It's an amazing feeling winning a national championship, especially with only five girls," Zowczak said. "I got a little tired in the second set, but we had a 10 minute break in between the second and third set, and my teammates, our coaches and our fans, really energized me and helped me fight to win the match. Earlier in the year, no one believed we could win with just five players, except for us. We kept working hard and stuck together and knew every day that we could do it."
"That was such a great match," head coach Rolando Vargas said of the Zowczak match. "Winning the national championship is really tough, but winning the deciding point is even tougher. I was so proud of her resiliency. She gained control of the third set early, and knowing what was at stake, never let go of that control. You could see that she wanted it in her eyes."
Trailing 2-0 after the line-up cards were filled out, AUM picked up a point at the No. 1 doubles spot, when Ana Veselinovic and Jade Curtis defeated Erika Januskova and Marie Boura, 8-5. However, Zowczak and Kveta Hajkova fell at the No. 2 doubles flight, 8-2, giving the Sunbirds (21-5) a 3-1 advantage heading into singles play.
"The girls all believed they could win from the get go today, and continued to believe that even after doubles," Vargas continued. "I am very proud to win the national championship, but the fight our team showed today makes me even prouder."
Veselinovic pulled the Lady Senators to within one point with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Sara Celma at the No. 1 position. In addition to the win over the No. 5 ranked Celma, Veselinovic also defeated the top singles player in the nation (Point Loma Nazarene's Kristin Strimple) and held a commanding lead against the No. 3 and No. 28 ranked singles player during the tournament.
Curtis helped erase the deficit with a 6-3, 6-3, win over Boura at the No. 2 singles flight. Curtis, who was named the Marvin P. Richmond Outstanding Player of the tournament, won all four of her singles matches in straight sets and teamed with Veselinovic to earn doubles points in each match for AUM.
With the score tied at 3-3, Hajkova gave the Lady Senators their first lead of the match, capturing a 6-3, 6-3, win over Yumiko Justin at the No. 4 spot, setting the stage for Zowczak. At the remaining singles spot, Alina Tseplukhova held a 6-3, 6-5 advantage over Januskova at the No. 5 position.
"Our team showed a lot of heart today and truly played like championship," Vargas added. "I am so proud of them and to be part of a championship program."
Following the match, Vargas was awarded the NAIA Women's Tennis Coach of the Year award.
The Lady Senators finished the 2011 campaign with a 27-5 record, including their final 13 matches. AUM has now won seven of the last eight NAIA women's tennis championships and nine since the team format began in 2000.
1. #2 Ana Veselinovic (AUM) def. #5 Sara Celma (FPU) 6-1, 6-1
2. #13 Jade Curtis (AUM) def. #12 Marie Boura (FPU) 6-3, 6-3
3. #16 Morgane Zowczak (AUM) def. #30 Cristina Valladares (FPU) 6-2, 2-6, 7-5
4. #25 Kveta Hajkova (AUM) def. #48 Yumiko Justin (FPU) 6-3, 6-3
5. #36 Alina Tseplukhova (AUM) vs. Erika Januskova (FPU) 6-3, 6-5, unfinished
6. Elizabeth McFeeters (FPU) def. No player (AUM), by default
1. Jade Curtis/Ana Veselinovic (AUM) def. #4 Erika Januskova/Marie Boura (FPU) 8-5
2. #12 Yumiko Justin/Cristina Valladares (FPU) def. Morgane Zowczak/Kveta Hajkova (AUM) 8-2
3. Sara Celma/Elizabeth McFeeters (FPU) def. No player/No player (AUM), by default
Order of Finish (Doubles Played First)
Doubles - 3, 1, 2
Singles - 6, 1, 2, 4, 3