ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Barry, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Barry, which entered the tournament as the top-ranked team in the nation, beat Armstrong Atlantic 5-4 in the NCAA Division II championship match at Sanlando Park on Saturday. It was the Buccaneers’ second national title in the program’s history, and the school’s 12th overall.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Barry sixth-year coach Avi Kigel said. “It wasn’t easy. They pushed us to the limit.”
It was the second time the Bucs beat the Pirates (28-2) by a 5-4 score this season, but this one was worth every bit the price of admission.
Barry’s doubles team of Emma Onila and Linda Fritschken secured the Bucs’ first point when they beat Marlen Hacke and Olga Kalodzitsa 8-4 at No. 2 pairs. Ana Pain and Twelker knocked off Aleksandra Filipovski and Barbora Krtickova, a tandem ranked No. 1 in the country at the end of the year, 8-6 at the top spot. It was the second time this year Twelker and Pain beat the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the country.
Barry’s Blanka Szavay and Karina Goia survived a battle at No. 3, beating Clara Perez and Carolina Prats-Milan 9-7 to complete the pairs sweep.
“We knew that doubles would be crucial,” said Fritschken, who went 25-3 in pairs play this season. “All of us fought so hard. To have a 3-0 lead after doubles gives you so much confidence.”
Armstrong cut the gap to 3-1 when Krtickova handed Goia her first loss of the season 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 singles. Perez was a 6-0, 6-2 winner against Elisabeth Abanda at No. 5. That pulled the Pirates within 3-2.
Fritschken gutted out a 6-0, 2-6, 6-3 win against Hacke at No. 3 singles to pull Barry within a match of clinching at 4-2. But Filipovski recovered from double match point down to beat Onila 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 at the top flight.
Prats-Milan defeated Pain 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 at No. 4 in another back-and-forth battle. That left one match in progress to decide the title.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Kigel, the national coach of the year. “We just kept fighting. We believed in our players. Just incredible heart in all of them.”
Twelker appeared to be headed to a straight-sets victory at No. 6 before Kalodzitsa rallied to force a third-set tiebreaker. After Kalodzitsa battled through nine deuces and five match points in the second set tiebreaker, Twelker fought like a champion in the third set, pulling out a 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-4) victory to give Barry the championship.
“We worked so hard for this moment,” said Twelker, who went 15-0 in singles this year to tied Barbi Pocza's school record for single-season winning percentage. “I’m so glad that we fought through this, and now it all paid off.
“We are the best team in the nation, and we deserved it.”