May 30, 2010

By Shane Mettlen Special to

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - University of Chicago doubles team Kendra Higgins and Chrissy Hu were determined not to make the long trip home without something to celebrate. The Maroons' duo won't leave disappointed.

Higgins and Hu wrapped up a long day of tennis on the campus of the University of Mary Washington by winning the doubles title at the NCAA Division III women's tennis championships, defeating Emory's Zahra Dawson and Lorne McManigle in three sets.

It was the second consecutive D-III doubles crown for Higgins and Hu.

"It's been crazy today," Hu said. "We knew we had to play with no fear. We'd played them twice already and lost the first time. We didn't finish the second time, but it was close, so we knew it was going to be tough."

Higgins and Hu got off to a fast start, rolling to victory in the first game, but Dawson and McManigle came back. The Emory team rallied and took the first set 6-4. But Chicago's tandem once again jumped out to a big lead in the second, taking the first three games.

Emory battled back, making it 3-2 before Higgins and Hu pulled away again on the way to a 6-3 victory that set up the championships' deciding set. The third set was again hotly contested with Dawson and McManigle gaining a 3-2 edge. But the Maroons pair wasn't going away. Higgins and Hu rallied to take the set 6-4 and claim the doubles title.

"This was the biggest match that we've played," Higgins said. "We had to earn it. Competition- wise, it was 10 times better this year than last year." The pair had a relatively easy time advancing to the finals. Higgins and Hu took down Tufts' Julia Browne and Meghan McCooey in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. They then got to rest while the Emory pair was locked in a long battle with Denison's Marta Drane and Kristin Cobb.

Dawson and McManigle lost the first set of the semis to Cobb and Drane, 6-2. The Eagles team rallied in the second set for a 6-3 win before closing it out with a marathon third and a 7-6 win.

BROWNE'S RUN ENDS: Tufts junior Julia Browne had an opportunity to take home a second championship trophy on Sunday, but the D-III singles champ fell a little short of that goal.

Browne and her doubles partner Meghan McCooey advanced to the semifinals, but fell to Chicago's Higgins and Hu.

"I'm extremely proud of both Julia and Meghan and how they represented the school for their whole career," Tufts coach Kate Bayard said. "To even get into this tournament is an amazing accomplishment and everyone in this tournament is so tough. Julia stayed so level-headed throughout the whole tournament. She trusted her game and played with a lot of guts, and I'm really proud of them in doubles as well."

ANOTHER BIG WEEK: Great tennis played by Williams during the NCAA Championships has turned into a tradition at the school, which has won five national championships, including the past three.

But senior Grace Baljon, runner-up in the singles tournament, is looking forward to getting back to campus for another important Williams tradition: Senior Week. Senior Week, prior to Williams' graduation, is chock full of events leading up to Sunday's commencement. The week generally consists of parties, banquets, brunches, a trip to an amusement park and dances.

Baljon will have a thing or two to brag about when she returns Williamstown, Mass., but won't have much time to unwind after eight days of intense competition. "No rest, it is Senior Week," she said. "I'm graduating next Sunday and I've got to see all my friends. I'll get a little bit more sleep and a little less athletics, but it's busy. I had a great week last week and will graduate next weekend. These two weeks are some of the best that I'll experience."