The No. 1 Georgia Gwinnett women's tennis team successfully defended its NAIA National Championship title on Sunday as the Grizzlies pulled out a 5-3 victory against No. 2 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), in a rematch of the 2016 title, to clinch their third NAIA national championship in four seasons.
GGC head coach Chase Hodges reflected on the moment, "Words cannot describe the overwhelming excitement, joy, and happiness I feel for our women. Through the tournament, each of these women represented Georgia Gwinnett with class, sportsmanship, professionalism, and athleticism at a level that I have not experienced anywhere else. The victory has not actually sunk in yet, but I look forward to looking back on this moment in a few days and really analyzing what we did, the obstacles we overcame this season, and the sheer dominance our women showed all year long."
The match, which began on Saturday, May 20, was suspended due to severe thunderstorms and rain at the Mobile Tennis Center, forcing play to resume at 8:45 a.m. Eastern on Sunday.
Georgia Gwinnett garnered a 2-1 lead at the break as the second-ranked pair of Valeria Podda & Klara Dohnalova (8-1) and the duo of Margarida Abreu & Emerald Able (8-5) secured victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.
Lindsey Wilson (22-4) received a doubles win at No. 1 as seventh-ranked Fiona Curty & Maria Prados Cid upended top-ranked Chiara Di Salvo & Alyona Vasilyeva 8-6.
With the threat of rain in the area, the match continued into singles play where Able gave Georgia Gwinnett a 3-1 advantage with a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Natalia Kattah at No. 6.
The Blue Raiders pulled within one, 3-2, at No. 5 singles as Jovana Peric defeated Abreu 6-3, 6-1 before play was suspended by heavy rain.
After a two and a half hour rain delay and an amazing effort by the Mobile Tennis Center's staff, the courts were dried and made ready and playable for the match to resume at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.
With four singles matches remaining on the court, Lindsey Wilson's 25th-ranked Minja Gligic struck first to tie the match at 3-3 with a 6-3, 6-3 showing against seventh-ranked Dohnalova.
Moments later, 30th-ranked Vasilyeva pushed the Grizzlies back into the lead, 4-3, as she battled through a second set tiebreaker to pull out a 6-4, 7-6 (5) win against 41st-ranked Curty.
All eyes then shifted to court one where Podda was two points away from clinching a match victory. Podda, who met 10th-ranked Alex Shchipakina in a three-set battle, took an advantage in deuce play and then ripped a backhand shot to the opposite corner of the court for the 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 victory.
Celebration then ensued as the Grizzlies stormed court one and huddled around Podda as GGC defeated Lindsey Wilson 5-3.
Di Salvo's match on court three against No. 46 Prados Cid went unfinished as she led 6-4, 5-4 when Podda clinched the match victory and GGC's third title in four seasons.
For the first time in its program history, the GGC women's tennis team completes an undefeated season, compiling a perfect 26-0 record in 2017. Sunday's win is also the 34th victory in a row for the Grizzlies dating back to the 2016 season.
"This has been an amazing year, and I am so proud of our women and the fight and determination they have shown," said Hodges. "Our seniors finished out their careers on top and have set the foundation of our program with three national titles in four seasons."
For her individual efforts throughout the tournament, Podda received the Marvin P. Richmond Most Outstanding Player Award while Hodges was tabbed as the NAIA's Women's Tennis Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.
Hodges continued, "Last year, we had our backs against the wall and preserved, and this year, we made it our goal to come out strong and take the lead in doubles and focus on our individual games to win the match. Valeria has proven again that she is the best player in the nation, and I am thrilled she was able to clinch our victory in her final match of her collegiate career."
Coach Hodges has now won seven NAIA national championships with Georgia Gwinnett, taking three with the women (2014, 2016, 2017) while winning four straight with the men's team (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).
The complete 2017 NAIA Women's Tennis National Championship bracket can be accessed by clicking here.
#1 Georgia Gwinnett 5 - #2 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 3
1. #2 Valeria Podda (GGC) def. #10 Alex Shchipakina (LWC) 6-3, 1-6, 6-2
2. #25 Minja Gligic (LWC) def. #7 Klara Dohnalova (GGC) 6-3, 6-3
3. #11 Chiara Di Salvo (GGC) vs. #46 Maria Prados Cid (LWC) 6-4, 5-4, unfinished
4. #30 Alyona Vasilyeva (GGC) def. #41 Fiona Curty (LWC) 6-4, 7-6 (7-5)
5. Jovana Peric (LWC) def. Margarida Abreu (GGC) 6-3, 6-1
6. Emerald Able (GGC) def. Natalia Kattah (LWC) 6-0, 6-2
1. #7 Fiona Curty/Maria Prados Cid (LWC) def. #1 Chiara Di Salvo/Alyona Vasilyeva (GGC) 8-6
2. #2 Klara Dohnalova/Valeria Podda (GGC) def. #23 Jovana Peric/Minja Gligic (LWC) 8-1
3. Margarida Abreu/Emerald Able (GGC) def. Alex Shchipakina/Natalia Kattah (LWC) 8-5
Order of Finish
Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (6,2,5,4,1)
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