UCLA beats Cal, Georgia tops Texas to win championships

5/21/2008 - Tennis

TULSA, Okla. -- UCLA's women's tennis team finally got to contribute to the school's record haul of NCAA titles. Georgia merely found a new place to win the men's championship.

The Bruins beat California 4-0 on Tuesday for championship No. 102, finishing it off when Riza Zalameda rallied to beat former NCAA singles champion Susie Babos 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. With a loss, UCLA would have tied Florida's record with six second-place finishes.

"This is just our year. Our year to win it," Bruins coach Stella Sampras Webster said. "I think we were the favorite to win. It took a lot of hard work and some luck and we were able to pull it off. It's great to get that win, that championship."

Sampras Webster was a part of four of UCLA's five second-place finishes. She coached the Bruins to the title match in 2004 and again last year and played on runners-up in 1989 and 1991.

In her fifth try, she brought the title back to the state of California. Stanford has won 15 titles and Southern California won it twice.

"I feel for Cal because we've been there. It's tough. You get all the way to the finals and you just can't get that one more win," said Sampras Webster, who received a congratulatory text message from her younger brother, Pete Sampras. "It's tough. It's great to be in the national championship but once you're there you want to win it."

Freshman Andrea Remynse won at No. 4 singles, Alex McGoodwin won in the No. 6 singles spot and seventh-seeded UCLA claimed the doubles point.

Zalameda clinched the team title with an overhead smash less than two minutes after Remynse finished off her 7-6, 6-2 defeat of Claire Ilcinkas.

"My first match point, I heard everyone just uproar and I double-faulted because I just go so scared," Zalameda said. "The next point, I just made that time my time. Time for UCLA. Time for history."

Georgia got over a different hurdle, beating Texas 4-2 for the first of its six NCAA men's titles to come away from its home courts. The fourth-seeded Bulldogs had been the runner-up three times in the past 12 years on courts other than their own.

The Bulldogs also wrapped up their championship with a win from their top player. Travis Helgeson took the final five games of a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Dimitar Kutrovsky and was swarmed by his teammates after Kutrovsky's final shot landed out of bounds beyond the baseline.

"It's pretty sweet," Helgeson said. "I have to say last year was unbelievable, but this year we really had to fight through some battles throughout the season."

Fellow senior Luis Flores completed a 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 victory against Ed Corrie in the No. 4 singles slot a few minutes earlier, and Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg also won in straight sets for Georgia.

"To lead them and finish it is just an unbelievable moment for us," said Helgeson, seated next to Flores.

Georgia coach Manuel Diaz said he left Helgeson's match to check on the others in progress and found him on the verge of victory when he returned. The comeback capped a season filled with injuries, including stress fractures in both of Flores' feet, and several players fighting mononucleosis.

"I was out of words after what these guys accomplished," Diaz said. "I've never felt so awkward trying to rationalize things. Probably today, I did less coaching than I've ever done."

Texas earned the doubles point by winning the only two matches that were completed, and Miguel Reyes Varela won in straight sets at No. 6 singles for an early 2-0 Longhorns lead. Like Cal on the women's side, Texas was making its first finals appearance.

The eighth-seeded Golden Bears had made 26 straight NCAA tournaments under longtime coach Jan Brogan but made their longest postseason run in the first year after her retirement, upsetting top-seeded Northwestern in the quarterfinals.

"Having a new coach at the start of this year, they all just responded amazingly. They've been so much fun for me to work with and guide them. I'm proud," first-year coach Amanda Augustus said. "We didn't quite reach everything we wanted, but we were pretty darn close."