Cloud Nine: Armstrong women's tennis team caps perfect season with record ninth NCAA Division II national title
The top-ranked and unbeaten Armstrong State University women's tennis team captured the ninth NCAA Division II National Championship in school history with a 5-2 victory over No. 2 Barry University on Saturday at the Surprise Racquet & Tennis Complex in Surprise, Ariz.
The Pirates (33-0) extend their NCAA DII record for most national championships while also capping an unbeaten season, handing the Bucs (24-2) the loss in a rematch of the 2014 National Championship match won by Barry. Armstrong now has won three of the last four NCAA DII national championships and six of the last eight.
Armstrong took a pivotal 2-1 lead after doubles play as the top-ranked doubles duo of Lena Lutzeier and Clara Perez defeated No. 3-ranked Sonja Larsen and Ana Pain, 8-6, at No. 1 doubles, while No. 20-ranked Nicole Fossa Huergo and Carolina Prats-Milan downed No. 4-ranked Linda Fritschken and Emma Onila, 8-4, at No. 2 doubles. Barry's doubles point came at No. 3 doubles as Elisabeth Abanda and Kimmy Twelker downed Alejandra Cisneros and Diana Stomlega, 8-6, at No. 3 doubles.
The two teams each won three first sets in singles, and the Pirates took a 3-1 lead on Stomlega's 6-3, 6-2 win over Twelker at No. 6 singles. Barry cut the lead to 3-2 on No. 3-ranked Onila's 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 12-ranked Perez, but the Pirates quickly got the lead back on No. 10-ranked Cisneros' 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 22-ranked Abanda, 6-2, 6-3.
The clinching point came when freshman No. 5-ranked Lena Lutzeier broke the serve of No. 4-ranked Sonja Larsen in the second set for a 6-3, 6-4 win and the championship.
"This was so exciting, especially because I think it was crucial to take the 2-1 lead after doubles," Armstrong head coach Sean McCaffrey said. "Then going into singles, I knew we had a couple of spots where I thought we were stronger, and we were lucky because they panned out the way we hoped."
McCaffrey is the fourth different Armstrong head coach to win a national title with the women's team, and does so in his first season at the helm of the Pirates, joining Andreas Koth (1995), Mark Beyers (1996) and Simon Earnshaw (2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013). The Pirates are also now 2-0 at the Surprise complex, also winning the title at the venue in 2013.
"Winning in straight sets at the three spots that we won was important," McCaffrey said. "Carol, Clara and Nicole dropped their first sets but they tried to stay out there as long as they possibly could for the team. Coming through in the clutch were the young ones, with Diana, Lena and Alejandra, Lena clinching of course, and I'm very proud of them."