MOBILE, Ala. ---- Even with such a long history of success, the celebration after yet another national title never gets old for the Auburn Montgomery women's tennis team.
With senior Morgane Zowczak's victory at No. 3 singles, the Warhawks sealed a 5-1 win over William Carey in the NAIA finals, earning their third straight championship, their ninth in 10 years and their 13th in program history.
"We did it as a team," Zowczak said. "It's not like I'm the hero just because I finished the last match. Even though we lost against some teams during the season that were not as good as us, we knew that in the end it was nationals that counted the most. We gave everything we had today, and it was great to clinch in my last match."
After the Crusaders upset AUM in the regular season, the Warhawks responded with convincing victories in both the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament and the NAIA championship match.
AUM grabbed a 2-1 advantage after doubles. Zowczak and fellow senior Hagar Caro earned the first point of the day with an 8-2 win at the No. 3 position. Jade Curtis and Tiffany William followed with an 8-3 victory from the top spot before the Crusaders got on the board with an 8-2 win at No. 2 doubles.
"Both our No. 1 and No. 3 teams really got into a good rhythm for us," head coach Rolando Vargas said. "That helped us go into singles with some confidence, and the whole team showed up for singles. Everyone was playing well, and that helps the team keep its energy up on the court."
William was the first Warhawks to finish up her singles match, recording a 6-1, 6-2 triumph over 41st-ranked Sarah Maria Spruch at the No. 2 position. She ends the year on an 11-match winning streak and with a 5-1 record against nationally-ranked opponents.
Shortly afterwards, Curtis concluded a 6-1, 6-1 win over 20th-ranked Carola Orna at No. 1 singles. The victory was the 60th-straight overall in singles for the AUM junior, as she ended the year unbeaten for the second season in a row. Curtis was named the Marvin P. Richmond Outstanding Player of the NAIA Tournament after the match, earning the prestigious award for the second time in her three-year career.
"I'm so proud of Jade," Vargas said. "Not just because she's one of the best players in AUM history, but because of the way she handles herself. She's a great team leader, and she's outstanding in the classroom. It's incredible for one player to be able to win two MVP's. She's obviously one of the key reasons for our success this year."
William and Curtis set the stage for Zowczak, who put away 42nd-ranked Maja Vuzem 6-2, 6-2 to clinch the championship.
Chanel Cunningham, Hagar Caro and Maria Fernanda Vargas had also won their opening sets from the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, and were battling in the second set of their matches at the time of Zowczak's victory.
After battling through injuries throughout the season, AUM ends 2013 with seven straight wins and a final record of 17-8. Vargas, who has now won championships in each of his first three years as head coach of the women's team, was named NAIA Coach of the Year after the match.
"After everything we went through this year, this title is the one that makes me feel proudest," he said. "I knew what we were capable of after we won the conference, but we had played so few matches with a full lineup. I think it was key to start this tournament with a tough match. It really gave us confidence going forward.
"In the end, it's all about the girls. They played fantastic, and I'm just fortunate to be here as a coach."
1. #1 Jade Curtis (AUMW) def. #20 Carola Orna (WCU) 6-1, 6-1
2. #2 Tiffany William (AUMW) def. #41 Spruch, Sarah Maria (WCU) 6-1, 6-2
3. #39 Morgane Zowczak (AUMW) def. #42 Maja Vuzem (WCU) 6-2, 6-2
4. Julia Angerman (WCU) vs. #28 Chanel Cunningham (AUMW) unfinished
5. A. Zvyagintesva (WCU) vs. Hagar Caro (AUMW) unfinished
6. Malin Collin (WCU) vs. M. Fernanda Vargas (AUMW) unfinished