NORFOLK, Virginia - Third-seeded Georgia State is returning to the CAA women's championship match after turning back No. 2-seeded UNCW, 4-2, in the semifinals of the 2012 Virginia 529 Colonial Athletic Association Women's Tennis Championships late Saturday.
The Seahawks, who closed out the season at 15-7, were making their second straight appearance in the CAA semifinals and came up just shy of reaching the finals after a close match at Old Dominion's Folkes-Stevens Tennis Complex.
"First of all, I want to tip my hat to Georgia State because they were the team that played better for just a few minutes longer than we did," said 12th-year UNCW head coach Jenny Garrity. "It was a four-hour battle that came down to a few points. We came to play for a championship and I'm so proud of the belief that this team played with all year.
"I know our players are heartbroken, but as I told them after the match, they should have a lot of pride in the really important things - their heart, their effort and their teamwork. We did not play as well as we have the last month of the season and Georgia State had a lot to do with that."
The Seahawks picked up the doubles point by claiming the last two matches off the court early in the match. GSU's top team of Abigail Tere-Apisah and Tereza Lerova coasted past Christina Lee and Alyssa Ritchie, 8-1, but UNCW answered with an 8-5 decision from Miller Hales and Kelly Cameron over Masa Grgan and Chaimaa Roudami at the No. 3 slot.
UNCW's No. 2 team of Olga Blank and Angie Sekely then clinched the doubles point with a narrow 9-8 (5) win against Whitney Byrd and Maryna Kozachenko. Blank and Sekely bolted to a 6-1 lead in the tie-breaker before GSU scored four straight points to slice the deficit to 6-5, only to have the Seahawk pair close out the match.
In singles, Byrd swept past Sekely at No. 3 singles, 6-2, 6-4, to knot the score at 1-all and Tere-Apisah, the CAA Player-of-the-Year, gave the Panthers a 2-1 advantage by slipping past Lee, 7-5, 6-4, at the top of the lineup.
The Panthers extended the margin to 3-1 with a 7-6 (5), 6-0, victory by Roudami over Christina Riley at No. 6 singles before Ritchie picked up a 6-2, 6-3, straight set victory against Kozachenko at the No. 4 position.
Grgan then clinched the match with a 7-6 (8), 6-3 decision over Cameron at No. 5 singles.
"The part we'll take from today is we're getting so much closer to a championship and the NCAA's," Garrity added. "That is the next step, and I absolutely know we will get there. Christina (Lee) and Casey (Dashiell) have done an amazing job at leading this team by example all year and they are a big part of why we had the season we did. They have represented UNCW, and especially our program, with class and excellence all four years.
"We would really like to thank the men's team for coming back to the tennis center after their thrilling match to try and pull us through. They gave us a real boost of energy during the doubles point. I would also like to thank all of the parents who were amazing this weekend in their support of all our players, and we loved having them with us."
Lee, a four-year standout from Charlotte, echoed Garrity's sentiments following the close match. "I'm proud that we heard the Seahawk chant throughout the facility all day today during our match and how my teammates fought with so much heart and belief. Even though it didn't turn out the way we hoped and expected, the team should take pride at the level we competed all afternoon."