Auburn Montgomery Nips Defending Champion Georgia Gwinnett, Claims Banner
By: Mike DeVader, NAIA Communications & Sports Information Intern
MOBILE, Ala. — (Results | Bracket) For the 10th time in the last 12 seasons, the Warharks of Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) are the national champions. The second-seeded squad had to wait a while to get the final match of the 2015 NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championship underway due to inclement weather, but for the Warharks, however, it was worth every second of the wait – as they outdueled defending champion Georgia Gwinnett, 5-4, to claim the title at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, Ala., Sunday afternoon.
With the win, Auburn Montgomery takes home its 14th national title (1992, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2015). In comparison, no other women’s tennis NAIA institution has more than five national championships (former member Flagler (Fla.)).
The loss for the Grizzlies is the first defeat their program has suffered in eight tries in their two-straight years at the national championship (7-1; and last year’s crown). In 2014, the newly-crowned champions fell to eventual national runner-up Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the quarterfinals, 5-4.
On this night, the Warhawks came out on a mission. Auburn Montgomery exploded out to a 2-1 doubles lead thanks to victories in the No. 2 and No. 3 slots. The teams of Kelly Southwood and Celine Lenertz, followed by Claudine Maheu and Alice Baudeigne, sparked the early lead with 8-2 and 8-3 triumphs, respectively.
In singles play, the match got notched at two apiece thanks to a 6-1, 6-0 run-away by Valeria Podda of Georgia Gwinnett over Baudeigne in No. 1 singles. Auburn Montgomery responded quickly with two-consecutive wins (6-0, 6-1; and 6-1, 6-1; by Southwood and Maheu, respectively) to push the Grizzlies to the edge of defeat.
The top-seed and defending banner carriers would not go quietly into the night.
Down 4-2, Georgia Gwinnett earned wins out of the No. 5 and No. 6 positions – locking the score up at four each – and putting all the weight on the match between the Grizzlies’ Laura Wehner and Auburn Montgomery’s Paula Diaz in No. 2 singles. Wehner connected the first punch with a 6-2 first set win. Diaz tied the match with a 6-4 second set, and then scooted away in the third set, 6-1, to claim victory.
With the loss, Georgia Gwinnett’s 2014-15 campaign comes to a close at 11-7. Auburn Montgomery (23-4) has now upped its overall national championship record to 46-8.