Dec. 3, 2008

Courtesy of Armstrong Atlantic Athletics

A pivotal tiebreak point at No. 1 doubles provided the momentum to carry the Armstrong Atlantic State women's tennis team to their fourth NCAA Division II National Championship with Saturday's 5-2 victory over Lynn University at the Memorial Park Tennis Center in Houston, Texas.

With two doubles wins already in hand, the third-ranked duo of Iuliia Stupak and Gabriella Kovacs played an hour and 30 minutes at No. 1 doubles against the fourth-ranked duo of Victoria Weltz and Alexandra Schunk. The duo had three match points at 8-7, but Lynn's duo held serve, forcing a tiebreaker. On the fifth match point, Stupak blasted a cross-court overhand smash for a winner, giving AASU the 8-6 tiebreak win, a 9-7 match win and a commanding 3-0 lead after doubles.

AASU jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in doubles with Johanna Dahlback and Alisa Kagukina's 8-1 win over Alisson Siaci and Eleonora Ionozzi at No. 3 doubles, then the 10th-ranked duo of Martina Beckmann and Alida Muller-Wehlau picked up an 8-6 win over the 17th-ranked duo of Magdalena Ekert and Katerina Jiskrova.

Singles play started quickly in favor of the Pirates with first-set wins at No. 1 singles with Stupak, No. 3 singles with Muller-Wehlau and No. 4 singles with Kovacs. Lynn (27-3) battled back to take two first sets at No. 5 singles with Ekert and No. 6 singles with Ionozzi. Lynn picked up their first singles point as Ekert finished a 6-3, 6-3 win over Beckmann. Second-ranked Stupak picked up the fourth point for the Lady Pirates (32-1) with a 6-0, 6-1 win over 18th-ranked Weltz at No. 1 singles. Lynn recorded its second point with Ionozzi's 6-3, 6-1 win over Kagukina.

Two Lady Pirates had Championship Point at the same time as Muller-Wehlau and Kovacs each had a chance to give the Lady Pirates the title. The freshman Muller-Wehlau watched a forehand by Jiskrova go wide, giving Armstrong Atlantic State the title with a 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Armstrong Atlantic State's title joins the three other Championship trophies won in 1995, 1996 and 2005, and the Lady Pirates were making their ninth appearance in the NCAA Championship match. The title is the second for head coach Simon Earnshaw as well as senior Johanna Dahlback - who had the clinching point in AASU's 5-3 win over BYU-Hawaii in the 2005 match as a freshman.