COURTESY BYUH ATHLETICS|
Members of the Brigham Young-Hawaii men's and women's tennis teams celebrated after winning titles yesterday.
didnt come easy
HPU pushed the Seasider men, and
the women had to fight off Barry
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. >> The line in the NCAA record book will say the same thing as it did last year -- Brigham Young-Hawaii is the national champion in NCAA Division II men's and women's tennis -- but it won't give an inkling about how much harder it was.
Brigham Young-Hawaii's men's team beat island rival Hawaii Pacific 5-4, and the women beat Barry 5-3.
"It was way tougher than last year," said BYUH's Peter Madarassy, the No. 2 player for the men. "The teams are much deeper; the top two on each team could compete on the pro tour. We played the best tennis we ever have, and we had to."
On the men's side, the local rivalry between HPU and BYUH jumped on the national stage with both teams meeting in the national championship match for the first time. Before this season, they had always been on the same side of the bracket, with the Sea Warriors reaching the final in three of the past four years -- losing each time -- and the Seasiders beating HPU in the quarterfinals on their way to the national championship last year.
The men's national championship was narrowed further from between Hawaii's two best teams to arguably Hawaii's two best singles players.
Jan Krejci beat Mikael Maatta for the seventh time in eight tries in what may have been their best match to date. With the team score tied at four, the hopes of both schools rested on one match -- Krejci and Maatta, who were tied at 2 in a decisive third set.
"I was almost 100 percent sure Jan would beat Maatta," Madarassy said. "HPU pushed us to the limit, it was just a matter of points, but Jan always comes out a winner because of his skills and because he is a really good competitor."
Maatta, who had lost six times in seven attempts against Krejci, did not win a game the rest of the way, allowing the nation's No. 1 player to reel off four straight games to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 and keep the trophy on the North Shore.
"He fights really hard, just this year he hasn't been able to beat Jan," Hawaii Pacific coach Henry Somerville said from Oahu, where he stayed to be with his wife Rowena for the birth of his first child. "That might have been something that weighed in on the match -- not that Mike was thinking about his losses, just that Jan was really, really confident."
That the Sea Warriors (19-4) were able to put the title in Maatta's hands was impressive enough, since they lost the first set in five of their six singles matches. HPU lost two of the three doubles matches after riding the team game into the final throughout the tournament, where it had not lost a doubles match against the Nos. 1, 3, and 4 teams in the country.
Krejci and Madarassy beat Maatta and Gabor Jaross in a tight 9-7 decision and Daouda Ndaiye and Wen Lung Chang took out HPU's Jan Tribler and Blaz Jurjec 8-5.
"Actually, we could never beat them this season so it really wasn't an expectation," Jaross said. "Of course we are disappointed because we wanted to win this one, we just couldn't succeed."
That left the Seasiders (30-1) needing only to split the six singles matches to claim the title, but doing so proved to be easier said than done.
Ndaiye hurt his shoulder -- enough that he was forced to serve a point underhand -- in the doubles and was blitzed by Tribler 6-3, 6-2 in the singles. After Madarassy and Hong Tae Kim won singles matches, HPU's Sasa Pirc fought off a sprained ankle to beat Wen-Lung Chang 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 to combine with Jaross' three-set win over Jong Woong Yoon to tie the team standings at four and leave it up to Krejci and Maatta.
The Sea Warriors say they will keep trying until they scale the mountain.
"Outside of losing to our nemesis in the final, it has been a good year," Somerville said. "It is going to take perseverance; anything that is really worth it takes time to accomplish. If I don't do it this year, I will continue until it does happen, because it will happen in the future."
WITH 169 WINS in their last 170 matches, the BYUH women (37-0) had their drama fix from cheering on the men. But in the national championship, they needed a little bit of help from the sidelines.
Not counting their loss in the 2001 national championship, the Seasiders had only given up three points in the past four years. They gave up three to Barry (27-4) yesterday, but still hung on to win.
The Buccaneers took one of the three doubles matches when Greta Trotman and Valeria Papandrea beat Trisha Piercy and Gurianna Korinihona, but Adrienn Hegedus and Korinohona erased the advantage with straight-set wins in their singles matches to put the Seasiders within a point of clinching their fourth title in five years.
Then things got interesting for the Seasiders for the second time in four years.
Piercy and Anna Anikanova lost in straight sets for BYUH, leaving Amy Sun and Judy Weng on the court with either needing a win. Weng won the race, beating Victoria Courmes 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 and allowing Sun to walk off the court without a win. The heat rule was in effect for the match -- it was 94 degrees. Weng and her opponent had 10 minutes between matches, and Weng believes the time to think about the situation did in her opponent.
While the momentum changed every 10 minutes in the men's title match, the one shift in the women's match was enough for Porter.
"Oh my gosh, I've been spoiled the four previous years to where I could focus on the guys," Porter said. "Today was just draining.
"I was glad that the two players we had left playing on the court were the ones with experience. They responded and shifted the momentum back in our favor."
The Seasiders' latest national crowns cap off a year in which their volleyball team won the national championship and the basketball team hosted a regional. With no seniors and six freshmen on the women's team, the Seasiders expect to keep the string of titles going for a long time.
"We just get better and better," Weng said. "Everybody on the team tries so hard and we have history on our side. Sometimes teams are afraid of us even before they play us."
The Seasiders and Sea Warriors return to Honolulu at 5:15 p.m. today on Delta flight 1579 from Orlando, Fla.