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MEN'S & WOMEN'S TENNIS REACH NEC FINALS
West Windsor, NJ -- Two of the leagueís premier tennis rivalries will be renewed on Saturday at the 2003 NEC Womenís Tennis Championships at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, New Jersey. UMBC, the top-seeded team in both the menís and womenís divisions, breezed through its semifinal competition on Friday, and will be shooting for its fifth consecutive NEC womenís title and fourth straight menís crown when play resumes tomorrow with the menís championship at 10:00 am and the womenís title match at noon.
Following a dominating semifinal performance in a 4-0 blanking of #4 Monmouth on Friday, the UMBC women have just one opponent standing in its way - archrival and #2 seed Quinnipiac, itself a 4-0 winner over #3 Long Island in the afternoonís second semi. UMBC and Quinnipiac will meet in the womenís title match for the fourth straight year. The Retrievers have won the three previous meetings, all by 4-0 scores.
UMBC dispatched #4 Monmouth in quick order, highlighted by a 6-0, 6-0 win from #4 Lana Khvalina (Rochester, NY/Brighton) at the #4 flight. UMBC has yet to be seriously challenged at this yearís event, having dropped just 11 games in two tournament matches. In the other half of the bracket, Quinnipiac coasted to a 4-0 victory over #3 Long Island. The Braves were sparked by Danielle Rautenberg (Mansfield, MA/Bishop Feehan), who bounced Leslie Harvey (Randallstown, MD/Randallstown) at #2 singles, 6-0, 6-1.
On the menís side, UMBC ousted #4 Quinnipiac, 4-0, to set up a championship showdown with #2 Fairleigh Dickinson. The Knights, who downed #6 Robert Morris, 4-1, will look to avenge a 4-0 setback to the Retrievers in the 2002 menís finale.
In its semifinal win over Quinnipiac, UMBC received a strong performance from #1 singles player Joe Novotny (Sokolov, Czech Republic/Norfolk State), a 6-2, 6-2 winner over the Bobcatsí Justin Worthy (Springfield, MA/Science & Tech). Novotny also teamed with Luis Baraldi (Fort Lauderdale, FL/Cardinal Gibbons) for an 8-3 win at #1 doubles. Meanwhile, FDU had its hands full with an upstart Robert Morris squad, as #1 flight player Alex Sarria (Cali, Colombia/C.I.L.A.) was forced to a third set in a 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 win over the Colonialsí Mamoun El Ketanni (Casablanca, Morocco/Academy Bordeaux). The tandem of Sarria and Daniel Wynne (Norwich, England/Notre Dame) also recorded a 9-7 decision at #1 doubles.
In the womenís consolation bracket, #5 Sacred Heart tripped up #8 Fairleigh Dickinson, 4-3, and #6 Wagner upended #7 St. Francis (PA), 4-0. Sacred Heart and Wagner finished the tournament with a share of fifth place, while Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis (PA) ended deadlocked for seventh. #9 Mount St. Maryís finished in ninth place after downing #10 Robert Morris, 4-1. The Colonials took tenth place a the event by virtue of its win over #11 St. Francis (NY) earlier in the day. The Terriers wound up in 11th.
In the menís consolation bracket, #5 Sacred Heart defeated #8 Wagner, 4-0, and #3 Mount St. Maryís dropped #7 Monmouth, 4-0. Sacred Heart and Mount St. Maryís tied for 5th place, while Wagner and Monmouth shared the seventh spot. #10 St. Francis (NY) bounced #9 St. Francis (PA) to claim 9th place.
The winners of both the menís and womenís tournaments will receive the NECís automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.