NATIONAL CHAMPS: First Women’s Tennis, then Men’s Tennis Capture GGC’s First-Ever National Titles Saturday in Mobile
(photos attached: Team Champion and Celebration photos, head coach Chase Hodges with trophies; courtesy Grizzly Athletics)
The Georgia Gwinnett men’s and women’s tennis teams captured the first two national championship titles in Georgia Gwinnett College history on Saturday, each winning 2014 NAIA Tennis National Championships over Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.) at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, Ala.
First, the Georgia Gwinnett women outlasted the Eagles, 5-4, before the GGC men capped an unbeaten season with a 5-1 victory over the defending champion Eagles.
For his success, GGC head coach Chase Hodges was named both the Men’s and Women’s 2014 NAIA Coach of the Year.
The championships come in GGC’s very first season of postseason eligibility.
“I’m just ecstatic,” said Hodges. “This is hard to even put it in perspective right now. It’s an amazing feeling. I have a great group of players who have been a joy to coach. We just compete out there and if you’re playing the Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies, you’re in for a dogfight. Nobody backs down and it’s a pleasure to represent our college.
“Today, we just did what we’ve been doing all season and that’s win matches,” Hodges added. “All I can think about is enjoying this for another 364 days.”
The Grizzlies become just the second program to ever capture men’s and women’s tennis national championships in the same season.
Georgia Gwinnett Women 5, Embry-Riddle 4
The Georgia Gwinnett women’s tennis team captured Georgia Gwinnett College’s first-ever national championship trophy on Saturday as the Grizzlies defeated Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.) by a 5-4 score in the finals of the 2014 NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championships at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, Ala.
The over five-hour match came down to the final court, where Georgia Gwinnett freshman Ines Costamagna delivered a dramatic 7-6, 6-2 victory at fifth singles over ERAU’s Paola Montero to give the Grizzlies their first championship.
The Grizzlies (18-4) rallied from a 2-1 hole following doubles play, claiming four of six singles matches.
Georgia Gwinnett’s six-player championship lineup featured five freshmen and senior Paloma Cortina, who won both her singles and doubles matches on Saturday for the fourth straight day.
The Grizzlies clawed out an early 1-0 advantage in third doubles as Cortina and Chiara Di Salvo topped Eva Vilar and Paula Ortiz Couder, 8-5.
The Eagles (18-6) tied it on court two as Paola Montero and Anna Gotz outlasted GGC’s Costamagna and Luma Schwab, 8-5.
The drama built as the final doubles point came down to the number one court between GGC’s Valeria Podda and Helena Korompis against Embry-Riddle’s Hui-I Huang and Kristina Marova.
The Grizzlies’ top tandem fell into an early 5-0 hole, but then staged a furious rally to come back for a 6-5 lead. ERAU won the next two games and had two match points on its serve, up 7-6, but Podda and Korompis fought off both opportunities, rallying to break serve and send the match to a tiebreaker at 8-8. The Eagles would squeak out the tiebreaker, seven points to five, for a 9-8 win and the 2-1 overall match edge through doubles play.
In singles play, the Grizzlies leapt back in front with a pair of straight sets wins from Podda and Cortina.
Podda defeated Huang, 6-0, 6-1 while Cortina took down Gotz, 6-0, 6-2.
The Eagles tied it briefly, 3-3, with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at fourth singles for Vilar over Schwab.
The Grizzlies quickly jumped back ahead, however, with di Salvo’s 6-0, 6-2 win at third singles over Marova. That win put GGC ahead, 4-3, with just two courts remaining. Both of those courts featured extremely close first sets, with each school winning on one.
In sixth singles, Korompis fell in the opening set and came back to claim the second, but eventually lost 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 as the Eagles tied the match, 4-4.
That set up Costamagna for the championship-clinching performance against Montero.
In the opening set, Costamagna had been down 5-3 and facing two set points, but rallied back for a 7-6 win in a first-set tiebreak. All the attention of the Mobile Tennis Center focused in on Costamagna and Montero, who each had the chance to win the national title for their respective school.
Costamagna built a 4-1 second-set lead and when Montero broke serve to make it 4-2, Costamagna broke back for a 5-2 lead, putting the championship on her serve.
The final point featured a rally where Montero’s last shot sailed long, sending the Grizzly squad onto the court for a championship dog pile.
The match was the first of two finals Saturday between GGC and ERAU as the men’s teams met later in the day.
Georgia Gwinnett Men 5, Embry-Riddle 1
The Georgia Gwinnett men’s tennis team captured the program’s first and Georgia Gwinnett College’s second national championship of the day on Saturday as the Grizzlies defeated Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.) by a 5-1 score in the finals of the 2014 NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championships at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, Ala.
The Grizzlies dominated the defending national champion Eagles from the start to complete a perfect 21-0 season and earn the program’s first national title.
The third-seeded Grizzlies knocked off each of the two teams ranked ahead of them in the Men’s Tennis Coaches’ Top 25 Poll in second-seeded Auburn Montgomery and top-seeded ERAU (21-4) to win the title over the final two days.
Senior Bruno Tiberti clinched the championship Saturday with his 6-1, 7-5 victory over Jaime Sanchez-Canamares Rios at second singles.
The Grizzlies took a 2-1 lead following doubles action, winning on courts two and three.
After ERAU briefly went up 1-0 with a win at first doubles, Connor Clements and Matias Hatem rolled to an 8-2 victory at third doubles to level the match.
Then, Tiberti and Mark Verryth won 8-3 over Rios and Patrick Besch on court number two to give the Grizzlies the advantage going into singles play.
Georgia Gwinnett stepped on the gas in singles action, winning the first set in all six singles matches on the court.
The first to finish was Clements, who defeated Luke de Caires at fifth singles, 6-2, 6-0, as GGC went ahead overall, 3-1.
Hatem rolled to a 6-1, 6-4 victory on court number three to give the Grizzlies a 4-1 advantage.
That left four Grizzlies competing in a race to the finish, with one court eventually setting off the championship celebration.
While the matches on the first and fourth courts went to a third set, Luke Morland earned a 5-3 lead in his second set on court six. Simultaneously, Tiberti had rallied from a 5-3 hole in his second set to take a 6-5 advantage.
Tiberti pressed on in the deciding game, and when Rios’ final shot went long and wide signaling the championship had been won, Grizzlies from four different courts at the Mobile Tennis Center stormed upon Tiberti to celebrate the men’s program’s first national title.
Verryth was named the 2014 Ward-Ballinger Most Outstanding Player for his success in the tournament, while Hatem finishes the year 17-0 in singles play.