CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The top-seeded College of Charleston women's tennis team punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year by holding off third-seeded Furman, 4-3, in the finals of the 2011 SoCon Women's Tennis Championship held Saturday at the Champions Club.
The Cougars (21-7) won their 14th consecutive match of the season en route to earning their fourth all-time NCAA berth in program history next to 2003, 2009 and 2010, under three-time SoCon Coach of the Year Angelo Anastopoulo.
"It's a great feeling to return to the NCAA Tournament," Anastopoulo said. "That is what practicing, training and playing all season is for - to have a chance to compete at the highest level. To do so three years in a row is something special and a real credit to our team. We have five new players, and to have an opportunity to play in the postseason during your first year, makes it even more special."
Senior Kinsey Casey (Alpharetta, Ga.) outlasted Furman's Margaret Boyette in a tightly-contested second-set tiebreaker, 6-3, 7-6 (5), at No. 4 singles to clinch the deciding point against the Paladins (13-11).
"They did a terrific job of fighting today," Anastopoulo said. "Kinsey Casey and Emma Hayman were down set points, but their senior leadership paid off against two freshmen, to pull off the match for us. Kinsey played with a full-body cramp during the second-set tiebreak, but won her last point with a high-swinging volley for the winner."
CofC started off the match strong claiming the doubles point and 1-0 momentum heading into singles play. Sophomore Christin Newman (Greensboro, N.C.) and freshman Jamie Harrell (Charleston, S.C.) topped Monica Arguello and Jennifer Betts, 8-4, at the No. 3 doubles line, while Casey and junior Katie Lee (Brisbane, Australia) edged Lauren Kline and Amanda Murray, 9-7, at No. 2.
"The doubles point was very close," Anastopoulo said. "Furman really came out strong and built some early leads at No. 1 and No. 2 - two matches we won against them during the regular season. We did a really good job of closing it out to take the 1-0 lead. The doubles point was huge today, because we knew it would be hard to win four singles matches against Furman."
Furman quickly got on the board as Michele Stanford used a 6-3, 6-1 straight-set victory over senior Keely Mulligan (Miami, Fla.) at No. 6 singles to level the match at one-all. CofC would respond with back-to-back points courtesy of freshman Kelly Kambourelis (Melbourne, Fla.) at No. 5 and senior Emma Hayman (Wanganui, New Zealand) at No. 2. Kambourelis allowed only four games over two sets against Amanda Murray, 6-2, 6-2, while Hayman was named Most Outstanding Player with a 6-1, 7-5 decision over Katherine Oudin.
The Paladins didn't go down without a fight as Lauren Kline cut the margin to 3-2 with a 6-3, 6-1 win over junior Caroline Newman (Greensboro, N.C.) at No. 3 and Monica Arguello with a 7-5, 6-1 rally over Christin Newman at the top of the order. CofC also won the SoCon regular-season title for the second-straight year with a perfect 10-0 mark.
The Cougars earn the league's automatic NCAA bid and will be one of 64 teams announced live during the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship bracket selection show on Tuesday, May 3, at 5 p.m. (ET) on ESPNEWS. CofC will host a watch party in Charleston, which will be announced at a later date.
"I would like to thank (CofC men's tennis head coach) Jay Bruner in his recruiting efforts of our three seniors to the College of Charleston as well as (UNC Charlotte men's tennis head coach) Billy Boykin and (Louisiana-Lafayette women's tennis head coach) Greg Harkins, who helped develop their games during their time with our program," said Anastopoulo of his former assistant coaches. "Current CofC assistant coach Tim Smith did a great job with on-court coaching today as well as former CofC head coach Billy Silcox (who coached the men's and women's teams for 18 years including the women's 1983 NAIA national championship), who helps out in every aspect of our program. Our success is due to all of their contributions and we share this SoCon Championship with them."
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON 4, FURMAN 3
2011 SoCon Women's Tennis Championship Finals
April 23, 2011
The Champions Club
at Chattanooga, Tenn.
No. 1 - Monica Arguello (Furman) def. Christin Newman (CofC), 7-5, 6-1.
No. 2 - Emma Hayman (CofC) def. Katherine Oudin (Furman), 6-1, 7-5.
No. 3 - Lauren Kline (Furman) def. Caroline Newman (CofC), 6-3, 6-1.
No. 4 - Kinsey Casey (CofC) def. Margaret Boyette (Furman), 6-3, 7-6 (5).
No. 5 - Kelly Kambourelis (CofC) def. Amanda Murray (Furman), 6-2, 6-2.
No. 6 - Michele Stanford (Furman) def. Keely Mulligan (CofC), 6-3, 6-1.
No. 1 - Boyette-Oudin (Furman) def. Hayman-Irene Viana (CofC), 8-5.
No. 2 - Casey-Katie Lee (CofC) def. Kline-Murray (Furman), 9-7.
No. 3 - Christin Newman-Jamie Harrell (CofC) def. Arguello-Jennifer Betts (Furman), 8-4.
ORDER OF FINISH
Doubles: 3, 1, 2*
Singles: 6, 5, 2, 3, 1, 4*