Saturday, April 20, 2013

Familiar Foes, New Faces Highlight A-Sun Championship Finale

After Saturday sweeps of Stetson and USC Upstate, ETSU and North Florida earned the right to face off for the fourth-straight year in the Atlantic Sun Women’s Tennis Championship Final.

The Ospreys and Buccaneers are two familiar names for A-Sun women’s tennis fans with UNF capturing two of the last three A-Sun titles (2010, 2012) and the Bucs appearing in eight-straight A-Sun finals with three championships during that span (2006, 2009 and 2011).

Last season’s championship final lasted over five hours as the top-seeded Ospreys bested the No. 2 seed, ETSU, by a score of 4-2 at the Bristol Raquet Club. Four  members from last year’s singles line-up  returned this season for the Ospreys including A-Sun Player of the Year, Lorena Aviles, and fellow first team all-conference member Simona Weymar.

However, the Buccaneers saw a mass exodus from last year’s singles starting line-up with the departure of four seniors; Paula Jaime, Karina Kedzo, Marine Wieliczko and Diana Navrostska. Jaime, Wieliczko and Navrostska all captured all-conference honors in their final year with the Bucs.

With a hole left in the lineup, ETSU Head Coach Yaser Zaatini reloaded with several key players to this year’s team. Lyn Yee Choo, who redshirted last season, filled right in as she was tabbed the A-Sun Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Conference following a perfect conference record. Fellow freshman and doubles partner, Ana Gerbasi, landed second team honors.

An influx of transfers to Johnson City completed the ETSU line-up with Antonia Kolovou (Stephen F. Austin), Sofia Espana (Ohio Dominican) and Salma Dahbi (Georgia Perimeter) guiding the Bucs to an undefeated conference record (8-0) and a 14-5 overall record.

North Florida’s starting line-up saw little change from last year with four starters returning; however, the loss of Aline Berkenbrock – the 2010 and 2012 A-Sun Player of the Year – left a glaring absence at No. 1 singles coupled with first team all-conference member, Danielle Day, completing her eligibility with the Ospreys.

Luckily for the Ospreys, the return of seniors Aguirre, Aviles, and Weymar coupled with the emergence of sophomores Taylor Hollander and Marina Cunningham in the middle of the lineup steadied UNF to a 7-1 league record and a 15-4 overall tally.

The annual championship rivals have squared off seven times over the past four seasons with North Florida holding the 4-3 advantage; however, both teams have won exactly 20 points in the seven matches as the Bucs own two 4-0 sweeps.

With an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line, A-Sun tennis fans should prepare for top performances from both teams as each team have been building for this title game since last year’s final.

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