published Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Doubles decisive in SoCon tourney

Doubles success doesn’t guarantee team success in collegiate tennis, but it’s a tremendous help.

That’s been obvious this week during the Southern Conference men’s tennis tournament at the Champions Club, where the team that has won the doubles point has gone on to win eight of the nine matches so far.

“Winning the doubles is huge,” College of Charleston men’s coach Jay Bruner said. “It kick-starts the match in terms of momentum and spirit. It’s probably even bigger than just the one point that you get.”

Furman men’s coach Paul Scarpa developed the doubles-first system used in NCAA tennis.

In the old format, teams played six singles matches followed by the three doubles matches, though sometimes a win was clinched during the singles.

Since Scarpa’s system was adopted by the NCAA in 1993, the three doubles matches (eight-game pro sets) are played first and the school with two wins gets a point. The first school with four points wins the overall match.

“I think it has been a big success,” Scarpa said of the current format.

The only men’s team to have lost a match this week after winning the doubles point is top-seeded Elon, which fell 4-1 to fifth-seeded Samford in the semifinals Friday. The Phoenix had won the doubles point and the match 13 times in a row before facing the Bulldogs.

Samford will face No. 2 seed Charleston in the final today. The Cougars easily won the doubles point Friday against No. 6 Furman and finished off the Paladins 4-1.

“A lot of teams can get three points, and we play so many matches that are 4-3, so it’s really important to win the doubles,” Bruner said. “I think the eight-game pro set has elevated [doubles] because it brings a lot of intensity in a really short amount of time.”

Winning the doubles point hasn’t been quite as pivotal in the women’s tournament. Of the nine matches so far, the team that was able to take a 1-0 lead has won five times.

The third-seeded Furman women prevailed 4-1 Friday despite losing the doubles point against No. 2 seed UNC Greensboro.

Christin Newman, who plays No. 1 singles and No. 3 doubles for the top-seeded Charleston women, said winning the doubles point has been a huge factor in the top-seeded Cougars’ 13-match winning streak, however.

During that streak, which includes Friday’s 4-0 semifinal win over No. 4 seed Samford, Charleston has won the doubles point 12 times.

“The team that wins the doubles goes into the singles with that much more confidence,” Newman said. “It it so much easier to win three singles than to go in thinking that you’ve got to win four out of the six. The psychological aspect is huge.”

Samford and Charleston each will be trying to win its first SoCon men’s tournament title. The women’s final matchup is a repeat of last year’s, which Charleston won 4-0.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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