May 14, 2010

By Jarrod Rudolph
Special to

Altamonte Springs, Fla. - Armstrong Atlantic (30-0) is one match away from winning its third consecutive national championship after dominating Hawaii Pacific, 5-0, Friday in an NCAA Division II women's tennis semifinal at Sanlando Tennis Park. The Pirates will play undefeated BYU-Hawaii (31-0), a 5-4 winner against Lynn, in the other semifinal.

The championship matches will be Saturday at 9 a.m.

After a tough win over Barry University (Miami Shores, Fla.) in the quarterfinals, Armstrong Atlantic (Savannah, Ga.) looked re-energized as it ended Hawaii Pacific's season.

"I think we had quite an emotional match against Barry yesterday," Armstrong Atlantic coach Simon Earnshaw said. "I felt one of the keys was to not have an emotional hangover after that match. We really had to stay focused and play our best tennis."

BYU-Hawaii is making its first trip since it last reigned as back-to-back champions two years ago. Atlantic Armstrong's Earnshaw is counting on the experience earned during the regular season to help the Pirates deal with a tough opponent and the pressure of winning a third consecutive championship.

"All of the girls have a great deal of pressure," he said. 'I really think getting here and negotiating the regular season was more difficult than what we're facing here. I think a lot of the girls, at this point in their careers, their goals tend to be on this event and they expect to be successful. I feel once we're here things tend to go smoother than the process of arriving here."

Earnshaw's team may have gotten a little extra motivation after watching the men's team lose its bid for a third consecutive championship.

"I certainly think the men's result had a little bit of an effect on the girls' mental state today," he said. "It's my job as a coach to try to put a positive spin on that. For the girls, we make sure we're determined to get something positive out of the season; (and they have) to able to separate the two things."

BYU-Hawaii, ranked No. 3 entering the tournament, overcame a 2-1 deficit in doubles to advance to the final. Jenny Chin, the national player of the year, battled dehydration to beat Lynn's Tessie Salame, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3. Also in singles, Elwen Li, Yuan Jia and Sophia Simmons won in straight sets.

But maturity and experience have been big factors in Armstrong Atlantic's success. And the Pirates will need both against BYU-Hawaii.

"We're going to have to play our best tennis," Earnshaw said. "Not just of the season, but of some of these player's careers. I think there is no doubt that they understand that, especially after the effort we needed to win the championship last year.

"There is no doubt that they want to take everything they've learned in practice and all of their experience and use it to give us the best possible chance to be successful. If we do that, we can leave the court knowing we did everything we could."