NCAA Div 1 National Champions
If you’ve been following me on Twitter and Facebook then you know that the Virginia Cavaliers men’s tennis team and the Florida Gators Women’s tennis team are the 2017 NCAA Div. 1 National Champions. For the Cavaliers, becoming Back-to-Back-to-Back National Champions (three-peat) puts them in the same conversation as the ’98-’00 Yankees, the ’00-’02 Lakers, and the ’13-’16 UConn Women’s basketball team. For the Gators, this win marks their
7th National Championship, making the Women’s tennis team the most prolific team in Florida Gators history! The closets to the Gators are the Men’s golf and the Women’s gymnastics teams with four championships to their credit. Congratulations.
The NCAA Championships began at regional sites across America as each of the top 16 seeded teams would host the first and second rounds. The Sweet 16, through the Finals, would be held on the campus of the University of Georgia. And in case you are new to College tennis, these are the teams that hosted Regional matches:
Men’s Seeded Teams:
- Wake Forest
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas A&M
Women’s Seeded Teams
- Ohio State
- Texas Tech
- Georgia Tech
- Oklahoma State
- South Carolina
A couple of things jump out at me when I look at this list:
- Do any of these teams look familiar? They should. Many of the biggest Universities in America have not only football and basketball programs, but tennis teams, too!
- Florida isn’t the only place where they play tennis.
- Texas and Oklahoma seem to be the hottest tennis states.
- Lesser known “football” schools like Vanderbilt and Pepperdine have stellar tennis programs.
What is Your College Team Doing?
Watching the NCAA Championship play out over the course of 2 weeks was enjoyable, for me, primarily because of the Season that preceded it. From late January right up to the start of the Championship, players are growing together and developing into a Team. We see this in their interaction on Game Day and on their Instagram posts and Twitter timeline. We watch them struggle to overcome the opposition. We see them encourage each other after a loss. We see them celebrate together after a win. We see them playing practical jokes on each other, clowning in the gym, and being recognized by the student body at basketball games.
And then comes the NCAA National Championship.
A season of struggle all comes down to one, meaningful, tournament. Noticeably different than their professional counterparts, College tennis only has one Major tournament. There are numerous invitationals during the course of the school year, but they are merely exhibitions designed to prepare teams for the NCAA Championship. In fact, there’s an individual tournament for both singles and doubles following the NCAA Championships, but by then the crowds have gone home, moving on to the College World Series, or something.
Tennis Night in America
Here’s the point: tennis as a Team Sport is infinitely more enjoyable than tournaments. When cities like Charlottesville (Virginia) and Nashville (Vanderbilt) and Malibu (Pepperdine) have a team to gather around, the sport takes root in that territory. When the Oklahoma State Men’s tennis team makes the news it brings attention to tennis in Stillwater. When the Texas Tech Women’s tennis team visits the local Children’s Hospital in Lubbock the Red Raiders become a greater part of the Community. When the citizens have a tennis product they can be proud of they begin to display their tennis proudly. Much like the fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team (me) everyone knows where we belong. We are Buckeyes. We say it loud. We say it proud. And if you’ve got a problem with that, we can take it outside!
But seriously, Team Sports inspire a passion not found in individual sports. Which is why professional tennis SHOULD BE a team sport like it is in College. Just imagine what Sundays in the spring would be look like if it was Tennis Night in America; a day for the Community to embrace the local sports franchise, gather at the sports stadium, wear matching jerseys and t-shirts, and cheer in unison for their Home Town team. And when the Championships come around, tickets go on sale for $1,000! Can you see it?
We don’t have it yet, but I’ll keep dreaming it until we do. In the meantime, you can help me by supporting your local University; attend their matches, buy a hat and t-shirt, take pictures with the team and post them on Facebook. Make College tennis a part of your Community and let’s see how far we can take this thing!
Ohio State Buckeyes, Virginia Cavaliers, Vanderbilt Commodores, and the Florida Gators. What do these Universities all have in common? We are all familiar with the universities who have top-shelf programs in football, and basketball (Ohio State and Florida), but these schools also have world-class talent in tennis. Believe it or not, the World comes to America to find the best facilities,
the best training, and the best competition. It starts at the tennis academies like IMG and Saddlebrook and it continues on our College campuses. Players from countries like Brazil, Columbia, England, and Germany continue their education while continuing their playing careers right here in the United States. And seeing some of the world’s best tennis players in action, in person, is so much better than watching them on TV. Am I right!?!
Before we get into HOW to watch a College tennis match I though I would give a little background as to WHY watching College tennis is such a tremendous value, how is it different than what people may be watching on television, and why the Team is the premier vehicle for bringing tennis into the mainstream.
First, watching a Collegiate tennis match, while fundamentally similar to the professional game,
is a very different experience because the rules are more relaxed allowing the fans to become more involved the matches. And I say “match-es” because there can be up to six being played at the same time and they all count towards the team’s final score. Unlike professional tennis where it’s every man for himself, College tennis is a Team Sport, a group effort, where every player contributes to the outcome. Some people (me) prefer it this way.
For example, a College tennis match consists of two rounds; Round 1: three doubles matches followed by (Round 2) six singles matches. In some cases, all three doubles are counted as one, best-of-three set match, giving the team one point, the Doubles point, while in other situations all three doubles matches count as a point apiece (three total points). The singles always count as one point each, so the winner of the match must win four out of seven (best two-of-three doubles) or best five out of nine (three doubles points).
This best-of-seven format lends itself to all kinds of dramatic situations: after all of the doubles have been played, and 5 of the singles matches have wrapped up, if the match is tied at three points apiece, that means the last court to finish will be the deciding point, much like a Game 7 in the World Series or NBA Finals. And the last match to finish can be a different player each week: this week Court 2 went to three sets, but last week it was Court 6. So depending on how the coaches determined the lineup, and how evenly matched the players are, any player can be the hero (or the goat) for that day. It gives me goose bumps! I mean, is there anything more exciting than a Game 7?!?
But the #1 reason to watch a College tennis match (in my opinion) is because the players represent not only themselves, but the University. More significant than a bunch of random athletes, from a bunch of random countries, coming together to showcase their talents, competing for a trophy that represents nothing more than how good they are; College tennis teams play for their community. They play for their friends and classmates, the faculty, alumni, those who live in the surrounding area, and even those who have moved away but are still loyal to the university.
As a former Ohio State student living in Florida, I am a part of the larger Buckeye community… and we are everywhere! It’s always good to see someone wearing an Ohio State t-shirt or hat, or someone with an Ohio State license plate on their car, or flying an Ohio State flag outside their house. It reminds me of where I came from. It says to me that no matter how far I go I’m never far from home. So when I check the box scores and see an Ohio State football / tennis / basketball / baseball / gymnastics / wrestling victory, it lifts my spirits. Seeing Ohio State tennis at #3 on the Men’s side and #4 on the Women’s (as of 2/15/17) makes me proud to be a Buckeye, because whether they know it or not, they’re playing not only for themselves, but for me, too.
Now that we know WHY College tennis is so important, we can talk about HOW to watch a match. But we’ll save that for next time.
Who is your favorite University tennis team? I would love to hear from you. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Facebook page to be a part of the conversation. Then go to your team’s website to find their schedule and see when they’re playing. Most tennis matches are admission-free so they’re easy to afford. Cheer for your favorite team and have a good time. Tennis is always better in person.
NCAA Individual Championship
In my opinion, tennis tournaments are probably the hardest to report on because there are too many players playing too many matches, too many consecutive days with not enough time in between to prepare for the next. I can only imagine what it is like to be a player, but as a spectator, it’s my job to sort through the clutter of activity to gather what’s important to the reader. Because other sports operate on a periodic schedule of games, rather than week-long tournaments, commentators are able to build anticipation for the next game on the schedule making it more exciting when following your favorite team.
I understand the thinking that ’More is better’, but what about “Too much of a good thing”? College tennis is the best method of conducting the sport and should be implemented on the professional level. Why? When you follow a team over the course of a season you begin to identify with them. It becomes appointment viewing. Every game matters and every game is important. Plus the players have enough time to rest during the season, they take fewer days off. This keeps the fans interested.
For example, have you ever heard someone, in reference to the weeks leading up to a Major tournament refer to those tournaments as “tune-up” events? That would imply that the tournament is of little value other than to prepare the favorites for the next big one. By diminishing the importance of Indianapolis or Atlanta or New Haven you diminish every player in the tournament making the event less appealing. Why would I go to this event if it doesn’t mean anything? It’s like watching your favorite football team: why would I pay to watch a game that doesn’t matter? When college tennis teams work their way through a schedule of matches, against teams from across the country, all for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship at the end, every game is important. The season is not a “warm up” to the tournament, but rather a qualification FOR the tournament. A loss at the wrong time could drop a team in the standings and out of the Championship. A win at the right time could mean an easier draw when they’re accepted. Institute a season of scheduled matches and add significance to professional tennis.
Below you will find the results of the individual NCAA Singles / Doubles Championship for 2015 for players on Florida teams. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s important to at least hear the names of players you are going to want to watch next season. Enjoy!
We can talk about why we’re playing this tournament another time.
For more on your favorite Florida college tennis teams follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis. GO TEAM!
#6 Doubles team Sophomore Courtney Keegan and Freshman Brooke Austin
Defeated Shayne Austin/Briar Preston of Arizona, 6-2, 6-2
Defeated Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3
Defeated Taylor Davidson/Carol Zhao of Stanford, 6-0, 1-6, 6-4
Lost to Klara Fabrikova/Zsofi Susanyi of California, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
May 22, 2015 – The Gators’ top doubles team of Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan advanced to the Round of 16 with a win over Arizona’s #27-ranked Shayne Austin and Briar Preston, 6-2, 6-2. Brooke Austin: “I thought we played really well… really aggressively.” Kourtney Keegan: “I don’t think it’s always easy… getting into a rhythm…. Getting a lead early helps you relax a lot…. You just feel more comfortable out there, and I think that helps a lot because you get more momentum that way.”
#3 Freshman Brooke Austin – Lost in Round 1 to #47 Jennifer Brady of UCLA, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
#56 Sophomore Kourtney Keegan – Lost in Round 1 to #20 Carolina Price of UNC, 6-1, 6-3.
#28 Junior Brianna Morgan – Lost in Round 1 to #57 Madison Westby of USC, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4
#58 Sophomore Belinda Woolcock – Defeated Lorraine Guillermo of Pepperdine, 6-2, 6-3
Lost in Round 2 to Sabrina Santamaria of USC, 6-3, 6-3
#13 Freshman Josie Kuhlman – Defeated Kyle Phillips of UCLA, 6-4, 6-1
Defeated Viktoriya of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 6-4
Defeated Maegan Manasse of Cal, 6-4, 6-1
Defeated Sinead Lohan of Miami, 6-3, 6-4
Lost in Semifinals to Carol Zhao of Stanford, 2-6, 6-4, 6-0
#17 Doubles team Senior Lina Lileikite and Junior Stephanie Wagner
Lost to #11 Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 6-2, 6-2
#37 Freshman Sinead Lohan – Defeated Lauren Herring of Georgia, 6-1, 6-4
Defeated Caroline Price of UNC, 7-6 (3), 7-5
Defeated Natalie Beazant of Rice, 7-5, 6-1
Lost to Josie Kuhlman of Florida in Quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-4
#11 Junior Stephanie Wagner – Defeated Blair Shankle of Baylor, 6-3, 6-2
Defeated Beatrice Gumulya of Clemson, 6-2, 6-4
Defeated Saska Gavrilovska of Texas A&M, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
Defeated #1 Robin Anderson of UCLA, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Lost to Jamie Loeb of UNC in Semifinals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
#91 Freshman Alizee Michaud – Lost to Jasmine Lee of Mississippi State, 6-0, 6-4
May 20, 2015 – #91-ranked Freshman Alizee Michaud endured an 0-6, 4-6 loss to Mississippi State’s Jasmine Lee in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championship. This would be the first singles match Alizee has lost all season. Jasmine Lee was a first-team All-SEC selection and the #23-ranked player in America. A very tall order considering Michaud was playing for the first time since April 18, when Stetson lost to FGCU in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote: “I believe her slow start had to do with her going about a month without playing any meaningful tennis… the second set was more of the quality level of play that we are accustomed to seeing from Alizee.” Alizee Michaud finished the regular season as the 2015 Atlantic Sun Conference Player and Freshman of the Year.
North Florida Singles
#96 Sophomore Jack Findel-Hawkins – Lost to Roberto Quiroz of USC, 6-4, 6-3
Jack was playing in his first match in over two months after being sidelined with an injury which makes his #96 ranking even more impressive. He won the Bedford Cup in the fall and the first Osprey to earn entry into the NCAA Singles Championship.
South Florida Doubles
#28 Doubles team Senior Oliver Pramming and Freshman Justin Roberts
Defeated Denis Nguyen/Brian Yeung of Harvard, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Lost to Harry Jadun/John Patrick Mullane of Michigan State, 7-6 (0), 6-4
Congratulations to Oliver Pramming on a successful season with the Bulls, helping the team achieve a #18 ranking and capture its first AAC title. Looks like Justin Roberts will have to find a new doubles partner next season. But one-half of the #28 Doubles in the nation shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to play with.
South Florida Singles
#21 Junior Roberto Cid – Lost to Austin Smith of Georgia, 6-2, 7-6 (1)
Florida State Doubles
#16 Doubles team Juniors Benjamin Lock/Marco Nunez
Lost to Arjun Kadhe/Jakob Sude of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Florida State Singles
#44 Junior Benjamin Lock – Defeated Uros Petronijevic of San Diego, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (4)
Lost to Ryan Shane of Virginia in Round of 32, 6-2, 6-1
Florida Representin’ In The NCAA Championship
4 teams from the state of Florida entered Round Two of the NCAA Championship on Saturday with 3 teams moving on to the Sweet 16. On the Women’s side we have the University of Florida Gators and the Miami University Hurricanes. On the Men’s side we have the Florida State University Seminoles and the University of South Florida Bulls. Four teams ranked throughout the year, two of them hosting regional matches, one of them winning their Conference Championship.
Let’s start with the bad news. I started by saying 3 out of 4 teams made it to the Sweet 16, so who missed the cut.? It saddens me to say that the Florida State Seminoles were knocked out in less-than-glorious fashion by the Georgia Bulldogs, 0-4.
Here’s the promo the Seminoles put out following their loss to the Bulldogs. Not sure if I would have made such a big deal out of such an embarrassing loss. But, anyway. The Seminoles now move into the off-season where Juniors Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez were selected to compete in the 2015 NCAA Div I Men’s Tennis Championship. Lock will compete in singles while Lock and Nunez will compete in doubles. Good luck!
Now for the good news!
The University of Florida Gators women’s team played host to Georgia Tech on Saturday, but could learn a thing or two about hospitality, dismissing the Yellow Jackets 4-0 to move into the Sweet 16. For the #5-ranked team in the nation, this match was never in doubt. The Gators won the doubles 2-0 thanks to the gritty play of Josie Kuhlman/Belinda Woolcock and Brooke Austin/Kourtney Keegan. Both matches lasted less than an hour with the final scores of 8-2 and 8-5, respectively. Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter were close to finishing their opponents when the outcome was determined.
In the singles, the Gators took the first set on 5 out of 6 courts. Securing the finish for UF would be Belinda Woolcock, Brianna Morgan, and Josie Kuhlman. Brooke Austin, and Kourtney Keegan were in the lead when the outcome was determined. According to Head Coach Roland Thornqvist: “Our doubles play was just exceptional all weekend. …I was very pleased to see that we were the aggressive team. If we weren’t, things could’ve been a little hairy… because their [Georgia Tech] No. 3 team has been on fire.” In singles, “Belinda [Woolcock] was just outstanding, as she was off the court right away (1:09) that certainly helped our momentum. We are playing, in my mind, the best tennis we have played all year and that’s certainly coming at a great time.”
The Florida Gators now travel to Waco, Tx to face Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16. The Cowgirls are 22-5 on the season and 7-2 in the Big 12, a very tough conference. Florida, however, is advancing to the Round of 16 for the 32nd time in team history. They are 28-3 in the Sweet 16, 24-4 in the Elite 8, 13-11 in the Final Four, and 6-7 in the Championship match, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. GO GATORS!
The University of Miami Hurricanes had a more difficult time in their Regional match against Ole Miss on Saturday. It started with the Hurricanes dropping the doubles point 2-0. The pairings of Sinead Lohan/Stephanie Wagner and Monique Albuquerque/Silvia Fuentes would both fall 8-4 to Ole Miss before Lina Lileikite/Wendy Zhang could finish their match. Lileikite/Zhang were leading 7-5. Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews “The job at that moment is calm them down, get then focused, get them on target, get them believing in themselves, and put it behind them.” Which is what they did.
In singles, Miami would need ‘all hands on deck’ to pull out the win. Freshman Sinead Lohan would be the first to finish downing her opponent 6-1, 6-3. The score is tied at 1-1. Miami would take a 2-1 lead thanks to a win by Senior Monique Albuquerque, 6-4, 6-1. Ole Miss would get a win over Lina Lileikete evening the score at 2-2. The next match to finish would be a Miami win thanks to Freshman Wendy Zhang, 6-2, 6-3. Miami now leads 3-2. But Ole Miss would tie it up again with a win over freshman Silvia Fuentes. Which means it all comes down to court #1, and the Junior from Amberg, Germany, Stephanie Wagner. Wagner had taken the first set handily, 6-1, but her opponent decided to show up for the second, keeping things close the entire time, holding serve and even taking a 5-3 lead. Stephanie would need a break of her own to keep things from getting out of hand. And she would do just that, winning 4 games in a row, and finishing her opponent 7-5 in the second, giving the Miami Hurricanes the 4-3 victory and a berth in the Sweet 16. The Hurricanes are now 3-1 when dropping the doubles point this season.
Up next for the ‘Canes are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the North Carolina Tarheels. This could be a tall order as the ‘Heels are 28-1 this season, 14-0 in the ACC, and beat the Hurricanes 5-2 on April 4. Keep your fingers crossed!
Rounding out the Top 3 are the University of South Florida Bulls who would down Virginia Tech, 4-0, to make it to the Sweet 16. As simple as it sounds, the win would not come easy. Roberto Cid and Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz would win their doubles match, 8-3, but the pairing of Sasha Gozun/Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would need a tie break to take the set 8-3. Oliver Pramming and Justin Roberts would not finish, but were behind 6-7 when the doubles point was decided. “Virginia Tech has very good doubles, especially No. 1 and No. 2. I thought our guys did a great job of playing smart and competing really well throughout” Head Coach Matt Hill would say afterwards.
In singles, Justin Roberts would step up to take the first point with a crushing 6-0, 6-2 defeat of his VT opponent. The freshman from the Bahamas has continued to perform following his contribution to the Bulls’ second straight AAC Championship. Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would be the next to finish his opponent with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) tiebreak win. The sophomore from Ukraine had been a major contributor to the Bulls’ success all season long. And rounding out the top 4 for the Bulls is Sasha Gozun, the sophomore from Moldova, who would need three sets to finish his opponent, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. The win marks the first time in program history the USF Bulls have made it to the NCAA Round of 16, and are booking their trip to Waco, Tx for the Championships.
Up next for the Bulls are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the Baylor Bears, who will be hosting the NCAA Championship on their home courts. Talk about “home field” advantage. The bears are 23-5 on the season, 4-1 in the Big 12, and would lose to Oklahoma in their Conference Championship. On the other hand, the USF Bulls won their second Conference Championship in dominating fashion, and are now on a 7-game win streak. Can #19 defeat #2, we’ll find out May 14 at 8pm.
For more on your favorite Florida College tennis teams, follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.
One of the things I hear more than anything else when I invite people to play tennis is: I don’t think I’m ready for that, yet. It’s almost as if they are afraid of tennis. Can this be true? I find it strange, when you consider how complicated other sports can be with all of the moving parts. Every player has to be in the right spot, every player has a specific job to do, and if one player is out of position or does the wrong thing, it creates a domino effect. Contrast that with tennis where we don’t have specific assignments or run plays, where there’s only one person on the court, and that one person is in total control of what they do. Tennis is so simple, I’m surprised more people would rather play ice/roller hockey! Why is that?
Sports like hockey and football understand the value of the Team. Not only do the players on a football team need the other players to block, pass, and catch, they need each other for other reasons: support, community, camaraderie. The players they play with become their friends because they have something in common, something they share. in many cases, the parents and officials become friends because THEY have something in common, too. It is the shared experience that creates community, and what is life without friends?
Unfortunately, tennis does not share this same spirit of community because every player is an opponent. Yes, players often train together at the same facility, but when they travel to a tournament, partners become opponents. And that kind of consistent opposition can strain a friendship ultimately leading to tennis players having very few friends. Most people can be friends with people that are kind to them, but on the field of competition the other person’s objective is to see you lose. How long can a relationship last when the only thing you have in common is a desire to see the other person fail? And in many cases, this feeling of isolation is too much for players, to where they decide not to play anymore.
There is a solution. There is an answer to the demise of our sport. There is a way to keep players playing and we see it in High Schools, Colleges, and (believe it or not) in every tennis club across the country; and it’s called the ‘Tennis Team’. The Team is a container that is big enough to hold every player who wants to play. The Team is great for new players because they are not required to carry the team. The team is good for more experienced players because they now have an audience that appreciates their talents. The Team fills in the gaps of the human experience that individual sports leave behind. And if tennis were a team sport at the Professional level it would bring greater notoriety to a sport that could desperately use the attention. That is what we are here to do: make a big deal out of an otherwise ignored sport. Stay tuned for more.