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Dominant UF Wins Florida Club Tennis Chps.; USF, UCF Also to Nationals

February 25, 2014 11:02 AM
The champion University of Florida club
tennis team (photo: Andy McFarland)
The finalist University of South Florida club
tennis team (photo: Andy McFarland)
The University of Florida Tennis Club concluded one of its most dominant seasons on the USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' circuit by claiming the season-ending title at the co-ed USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Sectional Championships, held Feb. 22-23, 2014 at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

In the Gold Bracket UF weathered a seven-hour rain delay on Saturday and a 90-minute tornado/lightning warning delay on Sunday to  edge the University of South Florida 26-24 in the final. The co-ed team format features men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles, using World TeamTennis (WTT) scoring. Total cumulative games determine the overall winning team of each match. The WTT scoring format also features no-ad scoring, player substitutions, and player on-court coaching is allowed.

In the final UF fought off USF 26-24 in "overtime" play. Total cumulative games determine the overall winning team of each match, but if the trailing team wins the final mixed doubles match, the match goes into overtime. Overtime give the trailing team the chance to win cumulative game points and still win the match, but overtime and the match ends once the leading team wins one game.

"There's only a few times in an athlete's life when they get in 'The Zone,'" said USF's McKenzie O'Brien. "When we were playing against UM to get to the finals, and when we played UF [in the final] to get to overtime, and almost beat them in overtime, me and Hiroto [Takeguchi] were able to get into the 'The Zone' [in mixed doubles]."

It was UF's fifth consecutive title of the 2013-14 season. It was also the third straight season tournament that saw the Gators defeat the USF Bulls in the final.

"Hopefully I see us winning a national championship this year," said UF captain and senior Adam Decker. "[UF Tennis] Club has always been a really big part of my life. I always thought I could play Division I tennis, but I never got to play NCAA tennis at Florida because of how good they are, so club tennis has been so important for me because I can still play competitively but be able to concentrate on my grades. It is a huge thing to win [Sectionals] my senior year, especially with a team as close as we are."

In the Gold Bracket semifinals the UF-"A" team defeated the UF-"B" team 27-22, and USF edged the University of Miami 24-22. In the Silver Bracket final the USF-"B" team defeated the Florida State University-"A" squad 26-16, and in the Bronze Bracket final the UF-"C" team topped the University of Tampa-"A" team 30-6.

The championship UF squad was comprised of team captain Adam Decker, Stephen Ireland, Alex Peckham, Stephanie Cruz, Barrie Eisenberg, and Carol Marie Fraley. The runner-up USF team was led by captain Victor Espinoza, with teammates Hiroto Takeguchi, Florent Fernandes, David Tipton, Anila Rao, Sree Rao, and McKenzie OBrien.

"We're looking to the future," said USF captain Anila Rao on the school reaching its first-ever Florida Sectional final. "We hope to recruit more people. This win to get through Miami [in the semifinals] was huge. We hope that by going to nationals it will increase the enthusiasm with our club and our school. Our school is huge and we can draw in more students to the club."

The victory was the fifth USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Sectional Championships title for UF in the last six years, a streak interrupted only by the University of Central Florida upsetting UF for the year-end championship in 2012. This season UCF was the only school besides UF to capture a tournament title, winning the season-opening FSU Capital Challenge in Tallahassee in September, defeating UF in the final.

The UF squad advances to represent USTA Florida at the USTA 'Tennis on Campus' National Championship on April 10-12, 2014 at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Center in Surprise, Ariz. Joining UF in Arizona will be USF, which gained a national championship berth by reaching the Florida championships final, and UCF which gained a national championship berth by finishing the highest (besides UF) in the Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Series Standings. UF will travel to Arizona as the defending national runner-up, last year edged by the University of Georgia in a tightly-contested final.

In addition to capturing the season-ending championship, the UF squad also finished first in the 2013-14 Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Series Standings, and was named the Florida Club of the Year for its on- and off-court achievements.

Twenty-four teams and 140 players from 10 schools competed at this year's USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Sectional Championships, with three new schools making season-ending appearances: the University of Tampa, Rollins College, and Florida Atlantic University.

The 2013-14 USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' series is a seven-tournament circuit held on Florida university and college campuses that provide college non-NCAA "club" tennis teams with a chance to compete and qualify for the USTA 'Tennis on Campus' National Championships.

"The 2013-2014 season of Tennis on Campus has seen not only continued dominance of a few programs like UF, USF, and UCF, but the resurgence of teams like UM and the birth of FAU, UT, and Rollins," said USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Coordinator Desirae McLaughlin. "Early in the year, we decided that growth of Tennis on Campus would be our goal of the year. We would not be satisfied with the same schools at tournaments this year. To see all of the hard work pay off at this year's Sectional Championships is amazing. We were able to have 10 unique schools compete this year, creating a third national bid for the USTA Florida Section for next year. I am already looking forward to next year's Sectional Championships."

USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' 2013-14 Schedule and Results:

Sept. 7-8 -- FSU Capital Challenge, Tallahassee (Final: UCF d. UF)
Sept. 28-29 -- UM Ibis Open, Miami (Final: UF d. UM)
Oct. 26-27 -- UF Gatorbowl, Gainesville (Finals: Men UF d. UF, Women UF d. UCF)
Nov. 16-17 -- UCF Knightro Cup, Orlando (Final: UF vs. UCF (unfinished due to rain))
Jan. 18-19 -- FGCU Dirty Bird Classic, Fort Myers (Final: UF d. USF)
Feb. 1-2 -- USF Bull Run, Tampa (Final: UF d. USF)
Feb. 22-23 -- TOC Florida Sectional Championship, Orlando (Final: UF d. USF)

USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Sectional Championship Tournament Winners:

2014 -- University of Florida
2013 -- University of Florida

2012 -- University of Central Florida
2011 -- University of Florida
2000 -- University of Florida
2009 -- University of Florida

2008 -- University of Central Florida
2007 -- University of Central Florida
* Prior to 2007, all participating Florida teams advanced directly to nationals

For more information on the USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' series go to www.florida.usta.com/CommunityTennis/tennis_on_campus or contact Desirae McLaughlin at tennisoncampusflorida@gmail.com.






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