The GCC Women's Tennis Team completed a near perfect season on Friday by winning the program's first NJCAA Division III National Championship. The Roadrunners talent, depth, and team spirit helped them overcome the 13-team field this week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The team won their final seven main draw matches to take the lead at the end of the semifinal round of the tournament and then pull away on Championship Friday.
The Roadrunners finished with 31 team points, four ahead of second place Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). However, GCC lead FIT by only one half of a point heading into the final day of play. Broome CC and Region 19 rival Ocean CC were both also within 1.5 points of the Roadrunners and all had a chance to win the tournament. On Championship Friday, however, the Roadrunners had a lot of momentum and were playing their best tennis of the year.
"Toward the end of the day on Thursday I thought maybe we were running a little low on energy after playing some tough matches," commented Head Coach Brian Rowan. "Our #1 singles player and team captain was playing a backdraw match and the whole team was there watching and she fell behind 0-5 in an 8-game pro-set. Many players would pack it in at that point but Jackie hung in there and battled back to 4-5, then took the lead 6-5, and when she won 8-5 the whole team stormed the court and our energy and a lot of momentum was back."
The Roadrunners went on to win their final two matches that day giving the team that slim .5 point lead heading into the finals. The Roadrunners had five matches on Championship Friday and were the top seed in three of those matches but knew the tournament was up for grabs. "I have not been in a Championship Tournament this close heading into the final day – it was exciting and it is normal to be nervous but I also saw that our team was confident in themselves," said Rowan.
The Roadrunners went on to win all five of their Championship Round matches to run away with the tournament. Terra McHenry (Pitman HS) struck first at #3 singles with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Allison Dennis, who had defeated McHenry twice during the regular season. Tori Yeich (Pennsville HS) struck next at #4 singles with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ashley Riley. While leading 5-3 in the second set Yeich rolled her ankle and needed treatment from the trainer but battled through it to win that final game and the match. Meanwhile, #5 singles Kelly Stanton was involved in a long match with Kelly Tanzone. Each game seemed to feature several deuces and long rallies but Stanton eventually came through with a 6-3, 6-4 win that, as the team would find out later, clinched the National Championship for the Roadrunners.
When the Roadrunners #2 and #3 doubles teams took the court the team points were being calculated from the singles play. "Dr. Tim Drain, the NJCAA Representative at the tournament, let me know that we had clinched the title after our doubles matches had started," said Coach Rowan. "I looked at the score and saw we were ahead so figured I would wait until the end of the match to let them know. I only told Jackie, our Team Captain, and I told her she could tell the rest of the team after the first match was over." The Roadrunners #2 team of McHenry and Yeich dispatched of FIT's Alina Krishnova and Asley Melendez 6-2, 6-4 and Hanley and the rest of the team were able to celebrate on court with the knowledge that they had earned the National Championship.
The final match of the tournament was a great one as Stanton and her partner Jessica Barney battled Broome CC at #3 doubles. With all of the tournament teams, coaches, staff, parents and fans watching the Roadrunners went back and forth with the Hornets from Broome splitting the first two sets. The third set saw Barney putting balls away at the net and Stanton using her heavy spin forehand from the baseline as they have all season and they scored a 6-0 win in that set. Stanton and Barney finished the season without a loss at the #3 doubles position.
It was a great tournament for the Roadrunners and a special season for the program. The team went 11-1 overall and won the Garden State Athletic Conference Championship as well as the NJCAA Region 19 Tournament. Terra McHenry was named MVP of the National Championship Tournament and Brian Rowan was named Coach of the Tournament. Each member of the Roadrunner lineup (Jackie Hanley, Michelle Duerstock, Terra McHenry, Tori Yeich, Kelly Stanton, Marissa DiCamillo, Jessica Barney) earned points toward the team total of 31 for the tournament.
Gloucester Runs Away with 2012 NJCAA DIII Women's Tennis Title on Tournament's Final Day - from NJCAA.org
Gloucester Wins National Title - from NJ.com/Gloucester County Times