Duke Outlasts Miami for ACC Women's Tennis Championship
April 19, 2009
CARY, N.C. – For the second year in a row, Duke’s Reka Zsilinszka faced match point with the Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Tennis Championship hanging in the balance.
And with memories of last year’s heartbreaking loss to Clemson running through her head, how did Zsilinszka respond to facing the same predicament against top-seeded and nationally sixth-ranked Miami on Sunday?
“I started laughing,” the Duke sophomore said. “You either laugh or cry when you get into that situation, and I thought it was easier to laugh.”
The laughter turned to cheers for the second-seeded and third-ranked Blue Devils. Zsilinszka fought back from several deficits – including triple-match point at 6-5 – to score to a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) marathon win over Miami’s Bianca Eichkorn at No. 3 singles and lift Duke to a 4-3 win and its ACC-leading 16th women’s title.
“You don’t get that kind of chance very often,” said Duke’s Jamie Ashworth, who claimed his seventh title as Blue Devils head coach and first since 2003. “I don’t know that Reka played her best at the end of today’s match, but she competed her best.”
Zsilinszka’s winning effort ended a three hour and 38 battle with Eichkorn and concluded a match between Top-10 programs that took more than five hours to complete.
“I told our team before the match, ‘We don’t play again for another three weeks (in the NCAA Tournament), so leave everything you have on the court,’ ‘’ Ashworth said. “Our goal at the beginning of the tournament was to leave here physically, mentally and emotionally drained, and our team is.”
Duke (23-3) avenged a 5-2 to loss to the Hurricanes at Coral Gables on March 22 and will carry a 12-match winning streak into the NCAAs. Miami (23-4) saw a 12-match winning streak come to an end but still figures to receive a high NCAA Tournament seed when pairings are announced April 28).
“I think our conference deserves nine or 10 teams in the NCAAs,” Ashworth said. “From top to bottom, it’s the strongest in the nation.”
ACC Freshman of the Year Malloy Cecil of Duke received tournament MVP honors after defeating the Hurricanes’ fourth-ranked Julia Cohen 6-4, 6-1 in No. 1 singles. The loss was Cohen’s first in 14 matches vs. ACC competition this season.
Cecil also teamed up with Jessi Robison for an 8-5 win over Cohen and Eichkorn in No. 2 doubles, and Amanda Granson and Melissa Mang won at No. 1 to give the Blue Devils the doubles point. Mang scored the third singles win for Duke at No. 5.
Miami received wins from Laura Vallverdu at No. 2 singles, Michaela Kissell at No. 4 and Claudia Wawsilewski at No. 6 to keep the estimated crowd of 1,250 in suspense until the epic match between Zsilinszka and Eichkorn finally concluded.
For more on the 2009 Women’s Tennis Championship, please see the link below: