Nuggets win sixth GCAC championship in eight years
April 24, 2009
MOBILE, Ala. — Alan Green probably never will forget what
happened in 2008, but he felt a little better Friday after his Xavier University of Louisiana
women's tennis team defeated Mobile 7-1 in the championship match of the Gulf Coast
Athletic Conference Tournament at Copeland-Cox Tennis Center.
The Gold Nuggets, 18-6 and No. 15 in the NAIA coaches
poll, clinched their fourth berth to the NAIA National Championship and second in a row.
They also avenged a 5-4 loss to Mobile in last year's final.
"(The 2008 final) was on my mind," Green said. "It was the
first thing on my mind this morning. It had been on my mind the whole year. Our ladies
knew they didn't want to go home with that same feeling as last year."
Anastesia Opata, a first-team NAIA All-American in 2008, led
the Nuggets to their sixth conference championship in eight years. She and Angelina
Callis rallied from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Rachel Hartley and Zelie Pfeiffer 8-5 at No. 1
doubles and give the Nuggets a 2-1 lead heading into singles. Opata then capped the dual
with another comeback, this time beating Claudia Borges 3-6, 6-0, 1-0 (10-8) in a match
that decided the GCAC Player of the Year award. Borges beat Opata in straight sets
in the 2008 final.
That was the extent of the Nuggets' drama. They dropped a
combined one game in their other five victories and snapped the six-dual
win streak of the Lady Rams (12-5), who were seeking their third championship in four years.
"We weren't accepting second place this time," Green said.
"We made a nice comeback in doubles, we got momentum and that carried over into singles."
Last year the Nuggets trailed 2-1 after doubles, and XU freshman
Melissa DeLoach lost 7-6 in the third set at No. 6 singles in the final completed
match. This time DeLoach — recently voted by her teammates as the Nuggets' most improved
player — beat Alana McDaniel 6-0, 6-0 at No. 6 to give the Nuggets an insurmountable 5-1
Callis — who helped the Nuggets win the GCAC in 2007, played at
NCAA Division I member South Carolina State last year, then transferred back to Xavier
for this season — extended her winning streaks to 12 matches in doubles (all with
Opata) and nine in singles. Callis beat Pfeiffer in the opening game of their No. 2 singles
match, then Pfeiffer retired with an injury.
The Nuggets' championship — which they clinched 45 minutes
after the XU men secured theirs — was a record-setter, too. For the first time
in Xavier history, four Xavier teams earned berths to NAIA national championships in the
same academic year. The men's and women's cross country teams qualified in November.
Mobile also qualified for nationals but with a host-school bid.
The Lady Rams secured theirs when they defeated crosstown rival Spring Hill 5-4 in Friday's semifinals.