Virginia's Julia Elbaba of Oyster Bay, N.Y., and North Carolina's Brayden Schnur completed an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) sweep of singles titles on Sunday at the 2014 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center and hosted by Columbia University.
In the women's singles championship, Elbaba strung together her second straight convincing win. After defeating Brooke Austin 6-2, 6-4 in Saturday’s semifinals, Elbaba nearly duplicated the score in a 6-2, 7-5 championship win over California's Maegan Manasse.
Elbaba gained the early advantage when she broke Manasse's serve at love for a 3-1 first-set lead. Elbaba consolidated the break with a hold for 4-1, and nearly broke Manasse again in the following game. Manasse served at deuce down 1-4, but it was a situation she's become comfortable with.
“Megan has had an amazing semester,” said Elbaba. “I had a game plan and executed it well and thought I stayed pretty steady throughout the match.”
Julia Ebalba accepts her championship trophy from ITA Executive Director David Benjamin and former NYC Mayor David Dinkins
At 1-4 down on Sunday, Manasse's strong serve propelled her to the net and she won the point, holding for 4-2. But Elbaba countered with a service hold of her own and broke Manasse for a second time to win the first set, 6-2.
“I came in playing aggressive, which was the main plan, I was glad I was able to execute our game plan and that was the most important thing,” said Elbaba. “She played a tough match and hung in there until the last minute, so I was really happy to pull through.”
The two players traded breaks back and forth into the heart of the second set. Elbaba broke the four-break streak first and led 4-3. She had two break chances in Manasse's next service game, but the Cal sophomore held on at 30-40 and again at deuce to even the score at 4-all.
The no-ad format proved a bounty for Manasse, who won all five of the games that went to deuce.
Elbaba rebounded and held again for 5-4. Manasse followed suit with a hold of her own for 5-5. From there, Elbaba won eight of the next 10 points, including four in a row to break Manasse's serve for the championship, winning 6-2, 7-5.
“I’ve been working a lot with mark on my game—strengthening my forehand and backhand—really sharpened up my game and can’t wait for the regular season to start in the spring,” said Elbaba.
Elbaba was proud of her ability to refocus after losing four games to no-ad scoring in the second set.
"The four or five no-ad games I lost in the second set, it was really important for me to stay mentally tough," Elbaba said. "It's really easy to get distracted and lose confidence after that. On those points, anything can happen, and I was glad I was able to put it past me and focus on the future."
The junior may be looking forward to the future, but on Sunday. she relied on her past to get psyched up for this championship. One experience in particular helped her.
"I got to the finals of All-Americans in my first year, so I really did want to win this one," Elbaba said. "That was the only kind of pressure I felt. I didn't want to go home as a second place runner-up again. I just used that pressure to my advantage and told myself to stick with the plan, and that's what we did."
In the men's singles final, Schnur broke Vanderbilt's Gonzales Austin for 4-3 in the first set by winning a crucial deuce point and held twice more to capture the first set 6-4.
The second set was a server's battle, as each player held five straight times before the Commodore senior broke for 6-5, earning his chance to serve for a third set. However, Schnur broke right back to force a tie-breaker, familiar territory for the Tar Heel.
North Carolina's Brayden Schnur celebrates winning the 2014 USTA/ITA Men's National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship
"It's just a matter of refocusing, getting motivated again and coming out strong," Schnur said.
After losing the first point of the tiebreaker, he rattled off six straight points to take complete control of the match, eventually winning 6-4, 7-6(2). Though winning the title was a huge moment for him, Schnur remembers being on the edge back on day one.
"It's funny actually, I was down match points in my first-round match against Winston Lin from Columbia,” Schnur said. "Winning that match and pulling that out after saving match points was probably the highlight of my tournament."
Women's singles finalists California's Maegan Manasse and Virginia's Julia Elbaba, with men's singles finalists Braden Schnur of North Carolina and Vanderbilt's Gonzales Austin
In doubles, USC's Yannick Hanfmann & Roberto Quiroz won the men's doubles title, while UCLA's Catherine Harrison & Kyle McPhillips captured the women's doubles trophy in a Pac-12 Conference sweep of doubles glory.
In the men's doubles final, the USC tandem traded holds with Illinois' Ross Guignon & Tim Kopinski for six games before breaking the next two times to win the first set 6-3. Hanfmann held at love to start the second set, but Illinois won four of the next five games to gain the 4-2 edge.
The Illini served for the second set at 5-4 and held a 40-0 lead in the game, but the Trojans saved four set points and earned the break to level the match at 5-all. After USC held for a 6-5 lead, the Illini led 40-15 in the next game, but USC finished the match by saving three game points.
USC's Yannick Hanfmann & Roberto Quiroz were crowned winners of the 2014 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Doubles Championship at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
"We just started making returns," Hanfmann said. "We were down in the last three games, but we just tried to take it point by point."
On the decisive no-ad point, the Illini poached on the return of serve but the volley sailed long to give Hanfmann and Quiroz the 6-3, 7-5 win.
"I'm really happy, it's a really big accomplishment," Quiroz said. "We've been working really hard. To be able to win here is priceless."
In the women's doubles championship, UCLA's tandem of Harrison & McPhillips emerged victorious over Auburn's Pleun Burgmans & Emily Flickinger, 6-2, 6-3. The score was a departure from Harrison & McPhillips' semifinal victory yesterday, which went deep into a third-set tie-breaker, 7-5, 5-7, 11-9. Harrison was quick to add that today's score did not tell the whole story.
"Auburn was really tough today," Harrison said. "The score was not indicative of how tough the match was, to be honest. There were a ton of no-ads that we won in the first, same with the second set, so it could have gone either way."
After UCLA won the first set 6-2, Auburn gained a foothold and led UCLA 3-2 in the second set. But UCLA re-asserted itself and took control of the match, winning four straight games to close out the championship.
"We played solid the whole tournament but I felt like we improved every match," McPhillips said. "And then in the finals was the peak of our performance."
UCLA's Catherine Harrison (left) & Kyle McPhillips (right), pictured here with UCLA Associate Head Coach Rance Brown (center), captured the women's doubles trophy
Down 2-3 in the second, UCLA held at love to even the set at 3-all. Next, a number of effective topspin lobs and timely poaches helped UCLA break Auburn's serve at 15-40 for a 4-3 lead. UCLA held again for 5-3, and broke Auburn for the last time, this time at love, to win the second set and the championship, 6-3.
Afterwards, Harrison & McPhillips were congratulated by USC's Hanfmann & Quiroz, their crosstown rival and winners of the men's doubles championship.
"Have to represent the West Coast," Harrison said. "We're Bro-jans … or Tru-ins," McPhillips said of the Bruins-Trojans camaraderie. Whatever they want to call it, you can't argue with the results.
Also on Sunday, Baylor's Julian Lenz, Florida's Josie Kuhlman, Ohio State's Kevin Metka & Ralf Steinbach and California's Manasse & Denise Starr claimed consolation championships.
Credit all photos to the ITA