| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo credit: USTA

The finals are set at the 2014 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and hosted by Columbia University. Virginia's Julia Elbaba from nearby Oyster Bay, N.Y., will take on California's Maegan Manasse for the 2014 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship Women's Singles title, the first national championship match for Elbaba since her appearance in the 2012 Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championship and the first in Manasse's collegiate career.

Sunday's men's singles finals will be played at 10:00 a.m. ET, with doubles to follow. The men's singles final will feature North Carolina's Brayden Schnur and Vanderbilt's Gonzales Austin. Schnur holds the slight edge in the ITA Preseason Singles Rankings, as he started the season ranked seventh compared to Austin's ninth ranking.

In Saturday's women's semifinals, Elbaba defeated the number four seed, Brooke Austin of Florida, 6-2, 6-4. It was the second straight seeded upset won by Elbaba, after beating the top-seeded Jamie Loeb in three sets in Friday's quarterfinals. Against Austin, the top-ranked freshman in the ITA Preseason Rankings, Elbaba utilized an aggressive game plan that helped her storm out to a 6-2 first set.

"In the first set, I thought I served really well and I targeted what I thought were her weaknesses, and did that pretty well," Elbaba said. "I executed our plan and stayed really aggressive, and was able to dictate play."

 

 

 

 

 

Oyster Bay's Julia Elbaba defeated the number four seed, Brooke Austin of Florida, 6-2, 6-4 to punch her ticket to the 2014 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Women's Singles Championship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Austin dug deep and fought back to take a 4-3 lead in the second set. Elbaba, a junior, was able to regroup herself and went back to an aggressive game plan. She broke Austin twice in the final three games and took the second set 6-4.

"I went back to my original plan because in the beginning of the second set I kind of went away from it, trying some different things, but it was a bad idea to switch," said Elbaba. "I went back to plan A, and that worked well."

Elbaba will face Maegan Manasse of Cal at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning, as in the first women's semifinal match on Saturday, Manasse of Cal, the number five seed, defeated Miami's Stephanie Wagner, 6-3, 7-6(4). Trailing 2-3 in the first set, Manasse tallied two breaks and two holds for four straight games and a 6-3 lead at the halfway mark. Wagner played the aggressor early on, but Manasse was able to make adjustments and string together those four consecutive games.

"Especially in the first couple games, any short ball she was just killing and I was just running everywhere," Manasse said. "I just changed my objective to get the ball a little bit deeper and keep playing the point, get her best ball back."

Manasse won the first set on a sudden-death deuce point. "There's a lot of pressure on those deuce points," Manasse said. "But I love the pressure."

In the second set, both players held serve in the first six games, trading games to 3-3. They then flipped the script, and each player broke the other three consecutive times, sending the second set to a tiebreak. Two of the breaks were won on sudden death deuce points.

"We were both just putting a lot of pressure on each other," said Manasse. "Towards the end I was trying to get more first serves in and she was attacking all of my second serves. I was trying to put pressure on all of her serves too, so we were pretty much just trying to do the same things to each other."

The back and forth second set culminated in a tiebreaker. At the changeover, Wagner held a 4-2 advantage. Manasse clamped down and won the next five points for a 7-6(4) second set and a trip to the finals. She was still flying high after the match. "The tiebreaker was really close. I was in every point, I just had to keep telling myself to get her best ball back and keep fighting, keep fighting. We were both fighting to win that set and it was great, it was so much fun actually."

Manasse will also play in the women's doubles consolation final tomorrow, taking on Emina Bektas & Alexandria Najarian of Michigan with partner Denise Starr.

In the women's doubles main draw, second-seeded Pleun Burgmans & Emily Flickinger of Auburn advanced to the championship with a steady 6-3, 6-3 win over Oklahoma State's Kelsey Laurente and Viktoriya Lushkova. Burgmans and Flickinger broke serve at 3-3 in the second set and again at 5-3 to seal the victory.

The Auburn duo is 12-2 this fall and seeking their second piece of hardware in as many months. They won the USTA/ITA Southern Regional doubles title last month and have defeated two Top 10 ITA Preseason Doubles teams this fall.

Standing in their way is a team that won't be intimidated by any seeded opponent. UCLA's Catherine Harrison & Kyle McPhillips took out the number three seeds in Friday's quarterfinals, and on Saturday, down the top-seeded pair from Clemson, Beatrice Gumulya & Jessy Rompies, who won the Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Doubles Championship earlier this fall. Harrison & McPhillips won the first set 7-5, and dropped the second set, also 7-5, to set up a 10-point super-tiebreaker to determine the match.

 

 

UCLA's Catherine Harrison & Kyle McPhillips defeated Clemson's Beatrice Gumulya & Jessy Rompies to advance to the women's doubles finals

 

 

 

With UCLA leading 9-7 in the breaker, the Riviera/ITA Champions from Clemson saved two match points and forced another changeover at 9-9. Harrison & McPhillips earned another match point and didn't let it go to waste; on match point McPhillips' overhead was mishit off the frame of Gumulya, and the UCLA Bruins advanced intotomorrow's final versus Auburn.

The women's doubles championship is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

In men's singles semifinal action, Virginia's Ryan Shane had a chance to grab control of the first set, but Gonzales Austin won a decisive no-ad point at 5-5 down to grab the 6-5 edge. With momentum in hand, Austin rattled off three straight points to garner four set points. The Cavalier junior quelled the first three, but a ferocious Austin forehand return at deuce earned the Vanderbilt senior the first set.

"Honestly, I just said I'm going to be fearless here and just go after the ball because I'm not going to win this point pushing it," Austin said. "He'd been all over his forehand. Odds are if I leave it short, he'll get a forehand and I'll lose my opportunity. The only thing to do is go after it as well as I could and it turned out pretty well for me."

Early in the second set, Shane's nose began to bleed. Unable to stop the bleeding, Shane was defaulted from the match as he was unable to take the court in the appropriate amount of time, giving the straight-set win to Austin. The Miami, Fla., native has big goals for his final season as a Commodore.

"My goal this year is to be number one in the country," Austin said. "I have a couple other huge goals that involve the team, but personally I want to be number one in the country and this is the first step to doing it."

In the second semifinal, Schnur was the aggressor in the first set, winning 7-5. Koepfer took charge to start the second set, breaking once for 3-0 lead. Schnur broke back in the fifth game to get back on serve, and the pair would trade breaks to force a tie-breaker. Schnur refused to miss early in the tiebreaker, showing the form he did in a 7-0 shutout tiebreaker against Virginia's Thai-Son Kwiatkowski yesterday. Racing out to a 5-1 lead, the Tar Heel sophomore held off Koepfer for a spot in the final with a 7-5, 7-6(4) victory.

 

 

 

 

North Carolina's Brayden Schnur is into the men's singles finals on Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

The men's doubles final will feature USC's Yannick Hanfmann & Roberto Quiroz against Illinois' Ross Guignon & Tim Kopinski. The USC pair will play their second national final of the fall after defeating Vanderbilt's third-seeded tandem of Gonzales Austin and Rhys Johnson, 7-6(2), 6-3.

The Illini duo improved upon their semifinal appearance from last season by topping UCLA's young team of sophomore Mackenzie McDonald and freshman Martin Redlicki. After splitting 6-3 sets, the match went to a third-set match tiebreak. Trailing 5-6, Guignon and Kopinski rattled off five of the next six points to win 6-3, 3-6, 1-0(7).

"It would be really good to win a national title," Guignon said. "But we're just trying to become a better doubles team and better tennis players along the way. We're just trying to do things the way we want to do them, on our own terms."