ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – For Barry University women’s tennis team, it doesn’t get any better than this.
No. 1 Barry beat No. 2 Armstrong Atlantic, 5-4, in the NCAA Division II Championship match at Sanlando Park Saturday. It was the Buccaneers’ second national title in the program’s history, and the school’s 12th overall.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Barry sixth-year coach Avi Kigel said. “It wasn’t easy. They pushed us to the limit.”
This championship wasn’t short on dramatics. In fact, even after sweeping doubles play, the Bucs (28-1) were pushed to the edge before Kimmy Twelker pulled out a third-set tiebreaker at No. 6 singles to clinch the title in Barry’s third trip to championship match. Barry also won the 2011 title.
It was the second time the Bucs beat the Pirates (28-2) by a 5-4 score this season, but this one was worth every bit the price of admission.
Barry’s No. 7-ranked doubles team of Emma Onila and Linda Fritschken secured the Bucs’ first point when they beat No. 8 Marlen Hacke and Olga Kalodzitsa, 8-4, at No. 2 pairs. Sixth-ranked Ana Pain and Twelker knocked off No. 1 Aleksandra Filipovski and Barbora Krtickova, 8-6, at the top spot. It was the second time this year Twelker and Pain beat the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the country.
Barry’s Blanka Szavay and Karina Goia survived a battle at No. 3, beating Clara Perez and Carolina Prats-Milan, 9-7, to complete the pairs sweep.
“We knew that doubles would be crucial,” said Fritschken, who went 25-3 in pairs play this season. “All of us fought so hard. To have a 3-0 lead after doubles gives you so much confidence.”
Armstrong cut the gap to 3-1 when 10th-ranked Krtickova handed ninth-ranked Goia her first loss of the season, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 2 singles. Perez, ranked 38th in the nation, was a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Elisabeth Abanda at No. 5. That pulled the Pirates within 3-2.
Fritschken, the No. 23-ranked player in the country, gutted out a 6-0, 2-6, 6-3 win over the 15th-ranked Hacke at No. 3 singles to pull Barry within a match of clinching, 4-2. But second-ranked Filipovski recovered from double match point down to beat seventh-ranked Onila, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, at the top flight.
Prats-Milan, the 28th-ranked player in the nation, defeated Pain, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, at No. 4 in another back-and-forth battle. That left one match in progress to decide the title.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Kigel, the National Coach of the Year. “We just kept fighting. We believed in our players. Just incredible heart in all of them.”
Twelker appeared to be headed to a straights sets victory at No. 6 before Kalodzitsa rallied to force a third-set tiebreaker. After Kalodzitsa battled through nine deuces and five match points in the second set tiebreaker, Twelker fought like a champion in the third set, pulling out a 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-4) victory to give Barry the championship.
“We worked so hard for this moment,” said Twelker, who went 15-0 in singles this year to tie Barbi Pocza's school record for single season winning percentage. “I’m so glad that we fought through this, and it all pays off today.
“We are the best team in the nation, and we deserved it.”