By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern
MOBILE, Ala. — (Results | Bracket) The Grizzlies of Georgia Gwinnett earned their first-ever national championship—in any sport—besting the Eagles of Embry-Riddle (Fla.), 5-4, in the 2014 NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championship final on Saturday, May 17.
The No. 2-seeded Grizzlies and No. 5-seeded Eagles split the decisions at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles. Paola Montero and Anna Gotz earned the first point for Embry-Riddle with an 8-5 win at No. 2, while Paloma Cortina and Chiara Di Salvo grabbed a point for Georgia Gwinnett, winning 8-5 at No. 3. Hui-I Huang and Kristina Marova put the Eagles up 2-1 heading to singles play with a 9-8 (7-5) victory at No. 1 doubles.
In singles, Valeria Podda (6-0, 6-1) and Paloma Cortina (6-0, 6-2) made quick work of their opponents at No. 1 and No. 2, giving the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead with four courts remaining. Eva Vilar pulled the Eagles back even, 3-3, with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 4 singles, before Chiara Di Salvo put Georgia Gwinnett ahead once again by winning 6-0, 6-2 at No. 3 singles.
Paula Ortiz Couder of Embry-Riddle outlasted Helena Korompis in a three-set thriller at No. 6 singles (7-5, 2-6, 6-2) to knot the match for a final time, 4-4, leaving the national championship up to the match at No. 5 singles.
In a marathon first set at No. 5, Ines Costamagna of Georgia Gwinnett battled back to win in a tiebreak, 7-6, after Paola Montero had led for much of the set. Costamagna took care of business in the second set, 6-2, to clinch the national championship for the Grizzlies.
With the win, Georgia Gwinnett finishes the season 18-4 and holds a perfect 4-0 mark in the national championship. The Grizzlies are in their first year of eligibility for NAIA postseason. The loss is the first in NAIA play this season for Embry-Riddle, which ends its year 18-6 and holds a 20-14 record all-time in the national championship.