RALEIGH, NC – It was a classic battle, but in the end, it was the Chowan Hawks to battled their way to a 5-2 win over the Shaw Lady Bears (17-3) in the 2016 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Women’s Tennis Championship match. The Hawks had to dig down deep to claim their second championship in three seasons,Saturday morning.
With the win, the Hawks move past a disappointing loss in last season’s championship tournament.
“After last year, we knew that we had unfinished business,” Chowan women’s tennis head coach Christian Stambaugh said. “Last year was so heartbreaking with the way that it all happened. We put in a lot of work to get over the hump and we reversed all that. We knew where we were going, we know wat we wanted and Im so proud of the women on this team and so proud to be a part of Chowan.”
The match was an exciting affair from the very beginning as neither team would relent for the entire match. The Hawks did have an early advantage as the short-handed Lady Bears forfeited a point at #3 doubles. From there, Chowan would push their lead to 2-0 when the #1 duo of Polina Novachuk and Victoria Smolchenkova took an 8-2 win at #1 doubles. Shaw would strike back, however, when Marilyne Kamagne and Andrijana Martic took an 8-5 at #2 doubles to cut their deficit in half. Heading into singles play, the Chowan Hawks held a 2-1 lead.
The singles matches were just as exciting as Chowan once again claimed a forfeit win at #6 singles to push their lead to 3-1. From there, Shaw made things even more exciting when Martic added a 6-0, 6-2 win at #4 singles. However, Chowan answered the challenge when Smolchenkova claimed a 6-2, 6-1 win at #2 singles to give the Hawks just one more win needed to finish things out. It was then that Chowan senior Jessica De Backre sealed the victory when she finished a marathon singles match that lasted well over two hours long with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 win to claim the 5-2 victory.
For her efforts, De Backre was named the 2016 CIAA Women’s Tennis Championship Tournament MVP for her clutch performance when her team needed her most. “This was her [De Backre] last tournament and her last match in the tournament and everything did hinge on her result,” Stambaugh added. “So she won that first set, it was a struggle in the second set, and to come back in the third with so much pressure as a senior…She put it all out there and I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
With the win, the Hawks claim their third CIAA championship in the last three seasons. The team will await selection for the upcoming 2016 NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament.