2009 NCAA DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIPS
Team Championships - May 8-10 at Campus Sites; 14-21 at the Texas A&M University
It was something old and something new at this year's NCAA Division I Team Championship with a familiar face and a first-timer.
Though it was Coach Peter Smith's first trophy, it was certainly not a first for the Trojans. It was actually the school's 17th crown. For Duke it was a first for Coach Jamie Ashworth and a first for the women's team. And for everyone it was a long 12 days to the finish line.
The first two rounds brought lots of surprises, beginning with the locations, citing "regional distribution," seeds Ole Miss, Baylor (men) and Fresno State (women) were forced to travel instead of host. Those three did survive -- though Fresno just squeezed by in a third set tiebreaker in the final match vs. Illinois -- but there were those who the homecourt advantage didn't help. In the men's draw, three top teams fell in the early rounds with Kentucky (11) losing to Wake Forest; Boise State defeating Alabama (14); Florida (10) losing to Miami. In the women's draw, South Carolina defeated Tennessee (10) and Southern California (7) lost to Washington.
Once the sweet sixteen arrived at Texas A&M, the pressure was really on. Georgia survived a close (final set tiebreaker in the last match) scare by Illinois and moved on with the rest of the men's seeds. The South Carolina women continued to surprise everyone, this time by blanking Washington in the third round. And though it was holding to seeding, the UCLA women lost their possibility to repeat as champions when No. 6 Miami took them down. No. 9 California beating No. 8 Georgia Tech (the 2007 champions) wasn't shocking to everyone, but the shutout was unexpected as the higher seeds prevailed in the rest of the round of 16.
Monday's semifinal winners among the women were not shockers in themselves, but the ease of the wins was surprising. The Trojan men beat Texas 4-1, while on the women's side Duke put off the Georgia 5-2 and Cal defeated Notre Dame 4-2. Only Ohio State kept it tight in the semis in a match full of three-setters as they finally got past UCLA.
After the previous week and a half of matches, the finals came and went without major challenge. Duke and Southern California were determined and had teamwork down like clockwork. For the Blue Devils, it was an even more incredible moment for their first ever win as two seniors -- Melissa Mang and then Jessi Robinson -- clinched the match nearly simultaneously. Southern Cal's win was also an especially memorable one as it was in the same spot at Texas A&Min 2002 that Coach Dick Leach finished his career with USC's 16th trophy. And it was on to the individuals.
More stories and photos at Big Ten Tennis Examiner & Zoo Tennis and full draws at the Official NCAA Championship site
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