University of Miami women’s tennis junior Laura Vallverdu ended her run for an NCAA Women’s Tennis Singles national title with a runner-up finish, falling to Duke’s Mallory Cecil (5-7, 4-6) on Monday afternoon at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station, Texas.
It was all about the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on Monday in the heart of Big XII country (Lone Star State) as a pair of ACC women’s tennis opponents faced off in a match that was exciting until the very end.
Laura Vallverdu (ranked No. 24), a now three-time All-American and three-time All-ACC performer, battled Duke’s freshman No. 1 singles player Mallory Cecil to the end in what was the first NCAA Singles title match for both competitors.
Cecil (ranked No. 6 nationally), the No. 5 overall seed for the championships, claimed the opening set, 7-5, and then rolled out to a 3-1 advantage in the second.
“She [Laura] was relaxed a little bit when she got down in the second set, and she didn’t want the match to end,” stated UM head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews.
Vallverdu, a native of Valencia, Venezuela, claimed the next game before Cecil stretched the lead out to 5-2. Vallverdu then broke Cecil’s serve, and held serve on a five-deuce game to bring the Hurricanes No. 2 singles player to within, 5-4.
But Cecil was not to be denied on this day, as the Spartanburg, S.C. native served-out a Game-15 score to claim the second set and take the match, 6-4.
“I think if you look at her draw, and the players she had to play back-to-back, it was an amazing run in the quality of players that Laura took down,” said Yaroshuk-Tews. “Beginning with [Kelcy] Tefft and ending with [Mallory] Cecil, she had an amazing run, and just an unbelievable tournament.”
Vallverdu ends her remarkable run in this year’s NCAA Singles Championships as just the second player in UM women’s tennis history to earn a trip to the finals. The other, 2007 NCAA Singles Champion Audra Cohen.
“Laura had a great season,” remarked Yaroshuk-Tews. “She started out a little slow, and it took her about a month to really get it going. After she gets it going, then she’s pretty-much unstoppable. Obviously, she was a big part of our success this year. I’ve said it before, that she’s always ready to play in the post-season, and that’s what you want out of your best players. I couldn’t be more proud of her, and she showed everyone what we’ve always known, that she’s truly one of the best players in the country.”
After sitting out almost the entire fall season with injury, Vallverdu finishes her junior year with a record of 33-8 (26-4 dual) and going 18-8 against nationally ranked competition. She is tied for third-most wins on the season for UM, sitting alongside teammate and fellow semifinal participant in this year’s championship, Julia Cohen (33-8).
Vallverdu is now the first player in school history to amass 30-or more wins in each of her first three seasons, while ranking sixth all-time in women’s tennis history for career singles wins (96). In her three years in Coral Gables, she holds a career record of 96-21 in singles play. She will enter her senior year eyeing UM all-time leader Audrey Bañada (2003-07) who posted a record of 110-32 through four years under the guidance of Yaroshuk-Tews.
When commenting on the team accomplishments of the 2008-09 campaign, Yaroshuk-Tews commented on where the program is heading, especially after this year’s run in both team, singles and doubles competition during the NCAA Championships.
“From the freshmen all the way through the juniors on this team, I think the program has really grown,” she said. “They will bring those aspects of their game and personality to the team next year, and I think the whole program will grow as well.”
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