UCLA Women's Tennis Claims First-Ever NCAA Championship
May 20, 2008
Tulsa, Okla. - Bruin senior Riza Zalameda rallied from a set down to defeat rival Susie Babos of Cal, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday, clinching the first-ever NCAA Championship for the UCLA women's tennis team, as the Bruins posted a 4-0 victory over the No. 8 Golden Bears in the NCAA Final at Tulsa's Michael D. Case Tennis Center. The Bruins end their season 24-5 overall, while Zalameda was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
"I'm not feeling anything right now, I'm so excited," said UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster. "Our goal all year was to win this. We had everyone coming back from last year so we knew we would be the favorite. This team never stopped believing in themselves. Every match was tight. My team dealt with the pressure well."
UCLA was able to capture the doubles point on Tuesday thanks to the solid play of seniors Tracy Lin and Zalameda at court No. 1. Cal struck first, taking an 8-4 win at court No. 2, however the Bruins were able to answer right back when Alex McGoodwin and Yasmin Schnack took an 8-6 win at court No. 3. All attention then turned to the top court, where Lin and Zalameda were in a tight battle with 12th-ranked Babos and Stephanie Kusano. Lin and Zalameda, ranked No. 1 in the country, clinched the point with a 9-7 win to give UCLA an early 1-0 lead in the contest.
The Bruins, who had won the doubles point in last year's national championship against Georgia Tech only to fall in the end, knew they would have to keep up the intensity in singles. Needing only three singles wins to clinch the victory, UCLA looked to be in good shape after taking the first set on three of six courts.
McGoodwin was the first to finish at court No. 6, posting a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Bojana Bobusic. McGoodwin converted on her second match point, as she brought Bobusic in with a drop shot before passing her with a backhand down the line.
Lumpkin nearly put the Bruins ahead 3-0 in the match just moments later at court No. 5, however she was overruled on a match point in the second set when she called Kusano's serve out. Kusano would end up rallying to take the set 7-5 and send it to a third.
Lumpkin's second set loss didn't matter, as before long freshman Andrea Remynse and Zalameda worked their way to match points at court Nos. 1 and 4, respectively. Remynse was first to finish, recording a 7-6(5), 6-2 win over Claire Ilcinkas to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead. Zalameda would clinch the match less than a minute later, as she served it out up 5-2 in the third set against Babos. The Bruin senior finished it off with an overhead on match point, falling to her knees while being mobbed by teammates.
"Before I hit that last overhead, everything culminated at that last moment," said Zalameda when asked what she was thinking on match point. "It was a moment that I have been dreaming of. I'm speechless."
Zalameda received one of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's highest honors on Tuesday, as she was named ITA National Senior Player of the Year. Keri Phebus is the only other UCLA player to earn the award, winning it in 1996.
Three matches were suspended at the time of Zalameda's match-clinching win. Lumpkin was up 3-1 in the third set against Kusano at court No. 4, while Lin had dropped the first set and was down 4-5 in the second against Marina Cossou at court No. 2. Schnack was down 2-3 in the third to Cristina Visico at court No. 3.
UCLA was well represented on the 2008 NCAA All-Tournament Team. In addition to Zalameda being named the tournament's most outstanding player, Remynse was named all-tournament at No. 4 singles. The Bruins also had two doubles teams honored, as Lin and Zalameda were named all-tournament at No. 1 doubles, and McGoodwin and Schnack received the honor at No. 3 doubles.
UCLA had fallen in the NCAA Final on five prior occasions before Tuesday's win (1982, 1989, 1991, 2004 and 2007). It marks the second overall national championship for the program, as the Bruins captured the 1981 AIAW title, the year before the NCAA became the governing body of women's tennis.
It is the second NCAA title for a UCLA team in less than two weeks, as the women's water polo won the NCAA title just nine days ago. UCLA now has a nation-leading 102 NCAA championships.
Several UCLA players will be competing in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships which begin Wednesday in Tulsa. Zalameda is the No. 8 seed in the singles draw. Remynse, Lin and Schnack are also in the draw. Lin and Zalameda make up the No. 1 seeded team in the doubles draw.
* Denotes Clinching Match -- Order of Finish: 6, 4, 1
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