By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, APRIL 20, 2014 – USF women’s tennis head coach Agustin Moreno said this group of Bulls has been his favorite to coach in his nine seasons with the program thanks in part to their no-quit spirit which came in handy on the grandest stage of all this season.
Third-seeded USF dropped the doubles point but stormed back to defeat top-seeded Houston, 4-2, in Sunday’s American Athletic Conference championship match at the USF Varsity Courts. USF women’s tennis became the second Bulls team to win an American Athletic Conference title after USF men’s soccer won the league tournament by edging UConn in penalty kicks on Nov. 17.
“We’ve been very close so many times when we were in the Big East. In 2007 we won it and we came close so many times after, so this is very special,” head coach Agustin Moreno said. “We lost the doubles point, but we came back. The thing that is most impressive is we have a bunch of fighters on our team.”
Freshman Olaya Garrido-Rivas set the tone for the comeback by evening the score up at 1 by defeating Tina Rupert, 6-3, 6-2 in the No. 3 singles position. Houston (21-5) took a 2-1 advantage by winning in the No. 4 singles spot, but the Bulls bounced right back when freshman Olga Martinez held off Charlotte Phillips, 7-5, 6-2, in the sixth spot.
Senior Loreto Alonso-Martinez had been one of the team’s emotional leaders all season and she showed her toughness while putting USF ahead in the intense title match by defeating Despoina Vogasari, 7-5, 6-4, in the top singles position.
Freshman Vera Bessonova clinched the match and secured USF’s 15th consecutive victory by rolling past Rocio Martin Fernandez, 7-6, 6-1, in the fifth singles spot.
“She was down 5-2 in the tiebreaker and she won a very close tiebreaker,” Moreno said. “She just got control of the match and finished it, it was huge."
The Bulls (18-3) finished the season with a 13-0 record at home and Moreno said the team appreciated the fan support all season, especially during Sunday’s historic win.
“The crowd came and we had different athletes coming in, not only now but throughout the season,” Moreno said. “President Judy Genshaft was here from the beginning of the match until the end. We saw Doug Woolard here, too. The crowd was great and we did what we had to do.”
USF’s title victory ensures the team an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Championship that takes place May 15-26 at Dan Magil Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
“It’s been two years that we’ve been very close. One time we were one out, so this is so great,” Moreno said. “I think we have a team that will do well in the NCAA tournament.”
No. 3 seed USF 4, No. 1 seed Houston 2
Championship - Match 9
April 20, 2014
Varsity Courts, Tampa, Fla. – 10 a.m. ET
1. Kordolaimi/Vogasari (HOU) def. Alonso-Martinez/Rizzolo (USF): 8-5*
2. Cardenas/Rupert (HOU) def. Garrido/Fracassi (USF): 8-3
3. Bessonova/Martinez (USF) def. Martin/Phillips (HOU): 8-3
1. Alonso-Martinez (USF) def. Vogasari (HOU): 7-5, 6-4
2. Kordolaimi (HOU) did not finish vs. Rizzolo (USF)
3. Garrido-Rivas (USF) def. Rupert (HOU): 6-3, 6-2
4. Cardenas (HOU) vs. Fracassi (USF): 6-3, 6-1
5. Bessonova (USF) def. Martin (HOU): 7-6, 6-1*
6. Martinez (USF) def. Phillips (HOU): 7-5, 6-2
Order of finish: 3, 4, 6, 1, 5
Match Duration: 3:02