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Auburn Montgomery Defends Title

May 19, 2012
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By Jake Knabel, NAIA Communications & Sports Information Intern

MOBILE, Ala. – (Match Results) Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) sophomore Jade Curtis shines in big moments. The Marvin P. Richmond Outstanding Player at the 2011 championships delivered again Saturday, clinching match point at No. 2 singles to give the Warhawks a 5-2 victory over Embry-Riddle (Fla.) at the 2012 NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championships.

“Obviously it felt great to win anyways,” Curtis said. “But for me to win the clinching point just means even more. To know I won the final match, which won the trophy and the title for us is just really amazing, and I’m just so happy we won.”

This time around, senior teammate Ana Veselinovic earned the Outstanding Player award after going 2-0 at No. 1 singles and 4-0 at No. 1 doubles (along with Curtis) in Auburn Montgomery’s four matches at this year’s National Championships. The Herceg-Novi, Montenegro, native and No. 1-rated singles player in the NAIA by the ITA entered the tournament with her sights set on another title and her first Outstanding Player honor.

“That was one thing I was really hoping to get,” Veselinovic said. “Last year I missed it, but one of my teammates won it, so I was l really happy that it went to AUM.

“But this year I wasn’t expecting it would be me,” Veselinovic said. “I was just happy that we won the championship. That was my only goal. So when I got it I was really surprised and shocked. I’m glad that other people saw that I deserved to win it. It was a great award.”

The Warhawks got on top early by taking two of three doubles matches. All three were wipe outs, including the 8-1 decision recorded by Curtis and Veselinovic at No. 1 doubles over Yi Ching Chen and Josefine Strom of Embry-Riddle. No. 2 went to the Eagles, 8-1, after Auburn Montgomery breezed at No. 3 with an 8-0 win.

Embry-Riddle’s Ekaterna Kamendova was the first to claim victory in singles as she topped Tiffany William, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 3, to knot the team score at 2-2. But the Warhawks’ Kveta Hajkova won 6-0, 6-3 at No. 5 and Morgane Zowczak took No. 4, 6-3, 6-2, to put Auburn Montgomery at the doorstep of its 12th title in program history. With the match just over three hours in, Curtis closed the deal, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 over Rocio Frej.

The jubilant Warhawks, arms around each other, celebrated by coming together in a circle and jumping up and down while repeatedly chanting "AUM."

“We were No. 1 the whole season, all the time,” second-year Auburn Montgomery head coach and 2012 NAIA Coach of the Year Rolando Vargas said. “We never dropped a position, so being a frontrunner is definitely a different challenge. All the girls really enjoyed being No. 1. They wanted to be No. 1. They just showed all the experience they have from other matches. I give the girls all the credit. It was them that won it for sure.”

The Warhawks, who received a bye in round one, cruised past Vanguard (Calif.), Concordia (Calif.), Oklahoma Christian and finally, Embry-Riddle, on the way to their eighth national title in the last nine years. Auburn Montgomery has now appeared in all 13 national title matches since the championships switched to a team format in 2000.

On the other hand, Embry-Riddle made its first-ever appearance in the national title on Saturday. Eagle head coach Dave Paschal understood what a special season it was for his team.

“It’s the best season in program history for us,” Paschal said. “I think we had the most wins (23) in history and it was the first time we’ve ever been to the final. For our school and our program it was a great accomplishment. The girls had a great year, so we’re very proud of them.”

For Auburn Montgomery, this is old hat.

“It’s the same feeling,” Curtis said. “We came into the tournament really wanting to win again, just repeating that same thing and getting that feeling again. We achieved it. It’s just the same feeling. I’m just as happy winning this year as I was last year.”