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April 25, 2010
CARY, N.C. – Georgia Tech put an exclamation point on a weekend of upsets Sunday afternoon, and the Yellow Jackets’ improbable march to the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Championship is complete.
Dramatic three-set wins by Lynn Blau at the No. 4 spot and ACC Player of the Year Irina Falconi at No.1 spelled the difference as the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets buzzed past top-seeded and top-ranked North Carolina for a 4-3 win in the title match at Cary Tennis Park.
Georgia Tech (18-9) became the lowest seed ever to capture an ACC Women’s Tennis Championship and earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, which gets under way May 14.
The Yellow Jackets won their fourth ACC title and first since winning three straight from 2005 through 2007. They did so by winning four matches without the benefit of a first-round bye and had to go through second-seeded and11th-ranked Miami in the quarterfinals before edging third-seeded and eighth-ranked Clemson in the semifinals.
Then came Sunday’s win over UNC (26-4), a team that had won 13 straight matches and had not lost against ACC opposition this season.
“It was quite a journey,” marveled Falconi, who was named the Championship MVP after outlasting fellow All-ACC player Sanaz Marand 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the final match. That victory, coupled with Blau’s 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Gina Suarez-Malaguti, rallied Georgia Tech from a 3-2 deficit.
But Coach Bryan Shelton liked the determination and competitive fire his underdog squad showed from the start. The Yellow Jackets seized the early momentum by wining the doubles point, and freshman Elizabeth Kilborn’s straight-set win over Sophie Grabiniski at No. 5 allowed Georgia Tech to keep hope alive until the exciting finish.
“The girls just believed enough.” Shelton said. “To come here after the season we’ve had and to go through the toughest part of the draw … and then to make it to this point and actually seize the opportunity is just incredible.
“I just can’t say enough about this team and their heart.”
The match-clinching win was the 20th straight for Falconi, who has been ranked No. 1 nationally throughout the season.
“Irina was pushed today, but there at the end she was able to come through,” Shelton said. “She has been our rock all year, and she is so deserving of winning the clinching match at the ACC Tournament.”
Shelton believes Georgia Tech could be joined by as many as seven other ACC teams in the NCAA field.
“North Carolina has an amazing team, and they are certainly deserving of all the success they have had this year,” Shelton said. “We played so many tough matches through the season and had some tough losses. But that’s how it is in this conference. This conference is loaded.”