Women's tennis gives USF first Big East crown
The optimistic mainstream fan might have guessed it would be Jim Leavitt's football team. Others thought it might be Ken Eriksen's softball team. But on Sunday afternoon, it was USF's women's tennis team, directed by second-year coach Agustin Moreno, that gave the Bulls their first-ever Big East championship, knocking off No. 2-ranked Notre Dame 4-3 for a landmark win.
"It's a great feeling. I always thought that we were capable of winning," caoch Agustin Moreno said in a release from USF's sports information department. "The good thing about this is that we're together and we're really focused and we're playing like a team."
I had stopped by the tennis tournament Friday but wasn't able to get to Sunday's championship match. These details are paraphrased from USF's release ...
USF opened by losing the doubles point, meaning the Bulls would have to win four of the six singles matches to take the league championship. Playing at No. 2 singles, Courtney Vernon got an easy straight-sets win (6-1,6-1) to tie the match at 1-1. Notre Dame won the Nos. 3 and 4 singles matches for a 3-1 lead, needing just one more victory to clinch the conference title.
Senior Shadisha Robinson, who had played under Moreno at Georgia and transferred in to USF, earned a three-set win at No. 1 singles, beating Catrina Thompson, ranked No. 26 nationally. Another senior, Gabriela Duch, rallied from a set down to win at No. 5 singles, leaving the championship to rest on the end of the No. 6 singles match, featuring USF sophomore Iciri Rai.
The third set was tied at 4-4, and Rai was able to take a 6-5 lead, then broke serve for the clinching game to give the Bulls their first Big East title.
"It was completely dramatic," Moreno said. "We lost a hard doubles point, but Courtney got our first point right away and I think that got everybody up. All the three-set matches just went our way."
USF's men's team won Sunday to take third place for the second year in a row. The Bulls will host the Big East tennis championships for at least the next two years.