By Alyssa Whitney
As the thunder and lightning rolled into Cary, North Carolina on the evening of Thursday, April 9, staff and participants alike wondered at the fate of the 2015 USTA Tennis On Campus National Championship. In the end, in order to ensure the safety of all involved, the first evening of play at the Cary Tennis Park had to be suspended with a round and a half of pool play matches still to go. Despite this setback, teams rallied for the remainder of the weekend to complete all of their scheduled matches—some even playing late into the night.
At the end of the tournament, UC Berkeley’s Golden Bears were crowned the USTA Tennis On Campus National Champions for the second year in a row! They defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 27-17 on Saturday night. “Our team played really well,” said Golden Bears Co-Captain Joel Garcia as he soaked in the victory. “There were definitely some tense moments. We came out with a really strong doubles match, but the second match got a little tight. We haven’t had a tight match in quite a while, so we got a little tense. But everyone relaxed and played really well.”
The two schools traded match wins in the early moments of the contest; UC Berkeley jumped out to a 6-2 win in Men’s Doubles before Minnesota countered with a 6-3 victory in Men’s Singles. In Women’s Doubles, Berkeley broke a 2-all tie by claiming four consecutive games. This widened the lead to 15-10 heading into Women’s Singles.
Sarah Dessouki, a junior for the Golden Bears and a veteran of the 2014 title-winning team, delivered booming serves and hard backhands to beat fellow junior Kelsey Frechette 6-3. This put the champs up 21-13. Mixed Doubles ended up providing a sentimental moment for UC Berkeley seniors Laura Posylkin and James Kong as they celebrated a 6-4 triumph in their last match as college players.
For the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 2015 was the year they broke through and made their first Tennis On Campus final appearance after more than a dozen attempts. A perennial USTA Northern Section Champion, Minnesota beat a strong North Carolina Tar Heels club from nearby Chapel Hill, North Carolina 23-19 in the Saturday morning semifinal to get its shot in prime time. “We don’t necessarily have a championship caliber team,” said Team Captain Jeffrey Adolf after the match. “This year all the stars kind of aligned. We had a really great team this year. We really fought every single match in the Gold Bracket and had a lot of really close ones.”
Earlier on Saturday, UC Berkeley handed in-state rival UCLA a 26-18 loss in the national semifinals to put themselves back in the final. Last year in Surprise, Arizona, the Golden Bears beat the Florida Gators 27-13 for their third crown since 2010. In earning their fourth Tennis On Campus National Championship title in six seasons, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears extended their Nationals undefeated streak to 14 matches.
Remembering these events are more than competition, Co-Tournament Director and NIRSA Director of National Sport Programs Valerie McCutchan said this of the weekend: “I truly believe these students are our leaders of tomorrow. Leading up to the tournament I work closely with team captains and am able to see their passion, drive, and determination not only on but off the court.” She continues, “Teams work hard all year to get here and it’s always exciting to see the culmination of their season.”
Stephanie McAlpine, Assistant Director for Aquatics and Sport Clubs at The University of Texas at Arlington and Assistant Director of Competition, added, “It was great to be a part of the volunteer team from both USTA and NIRSA, and see such a collaborative effort to put on another successful event despite the weather challenges and long days.”