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April 23, 2013

East Central University women win GAC tennis title

BENTONVILLE, Ark. —

One year after losing to Arkansas Tech in the inaugural Great American Conference Women’s Tennis Championship final, the Lady Tigers enacted a matter of revenge as they scored a 5-2 victory in the 2013 GAC Championship title match on Saturday at the Memorial Park Tennis Complex.

The Lady Tigers (10-9), who shared the regular-season title with the Golden Suns (12-6), jumped out to a 2-1 advantage following the doubles sessions as their top two pairings, Marta Valles/Elisabeth Dignard at the number one spot and Aurelie Rodriguez and Mariah Vargas at No. 2, earned victories. Rodriguez and Vargas outlasted the Arkansas Tech tandem of Maria Aleman and Camila Roca, 9-8, winning the tiebreak 7-4.

Rodriguez extended the ECU lead to 3-1 as she quickly won her match at No. 4 singles. She defeated Laura Sanchez 6-2, 6-0. In their lone regular-season meeting, Sanchez had bested Rodriguez in straight sets. Bernardita Muscillo moved the Lady Tigers to the brink of the title when she defeated Aida Castany, 6-3, 6-1, at the No. 2 position.

Arkansas Tech fought valiantly over the remainder of the match and scored a victory at the No. 3 position when Aleman rallied from a first-set loss to beat Dignard, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

East Central held advantages at the three remaining undecided points, and different players had match point opportunities on multiple occasions. However, it ended up being Vargas at the number five position who earned the clinching point. She and Allison Grahl became locked in a battle that started to mimic their regular-season duel, one that ended with Grahl winning 11-9 in the third set. Vargas finally secured the clinching point with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 triumph.

The GAC Championship crown gave the Lady Tigers their first conference championship in the 22-year career of coach Charlie Hibbard.

 “It is exciting for the team to earn a conference championship,” Hibbard said. “It was a great way for our lone senior, Marta Valles, to end her career at ECU.”

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