Dale Long, Director of Sports Information
ROME, Ga. – The Georgia Gwinnett College women’s tennis program added to its national championship pedigree with junior Maria Genovese winning the NAIA singles national championship Sunday with a straight-set victory at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Oracle Cup from the Rome Tennis Center.
Genovese recorded a 6-2, 7-6 (0) victory against Lailaa Bashir of Xavier University (Louisiana) to win the national championship. She avenged a three-set loss – on the same court – in last year’s Oracle Cup.
She becomes the third GGC women’s tennis player to win a NAIA singles national title. And, her 23rd career tournament singles victory set a new program record.
GGC tennis has now won 29 national championships, 11 as a team and 18 as singles/doubles.
“It is unbelievable to win a national championship at GGC. I mentally prepared myself for this moment and gave it everything I had,” said Genovese after the match.
Genovese, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, came out strong, capturing the last four games to win the opening set by a commanding 6-2 score.
Things were much different in a second set that featured countless momentum shifts and service breaks. Trailing 6-5, Genovese broke Bashir’s serve to force a tiebreaker. The GGC player broke her opponent’s serve on three straight occasions in the set.
That strong play continued in the tiebreak, with Genovese winning all seven points. She sealed the victory with an overhead smash at the net.
“Winning a national championship is a great accomplishment,” head coach Chase Hodges said. “Maria’s experience in this moment helped her today. She played the key moments and big points really well. Maria treated each point in the tiebreaker like each was major. She achieved her goal for the fall season.”
“Experience was definitely a key. I pushed through any kind of situation that was dealt in the match. My fitness helped as I was able to run down every ball,” noted Genovese, who won her second Oracle Cup title after capturing the national junior college championship in 2018.
Later, Genovese teamed with freshman Eva Siska in a three-hour marathon match that decided the NAIA doubles national championship. They lost 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 to defending champion Angela Charles-Alfred and Bashir.
The Grizzlies literally had the match on their racquet in the second set, but the top-seeded Xavier team got a break of serve to square the set at 5-5. Then, they won the last two points to win a competitive tiebreaker and force the deciding third set.
That’s when Genovese-Siska nearly turned things around after trailing 5-2 to the Xavier duo. The GGC team broke Bashir’s serve before a hold of Siska’s service game closed the margin to 5-4. However, that’s as close as the Grizzlies would get in the third set.
“The match could have went either way,” Hodges said. “We had chances and they also had chances. I am proud of the girls for fighting back in the third set. A couple of points decided the match. It was overall a great tournament and put us in position to win a national championship.”
Georgia Gwinnett College will now prepare for its dual match schedule during the spring 2021 season.