After a dominating year of conference play and a strong playoff run, the Santa Monica College women's tennis team capped off a near perfect season this past weekend by winning the California Team, Singles, and Doubles State Tennis Championships for the first time in SMC's history. "It feels great!" said co-captain Gwendolyn Kaufmann, "we've worked hard all year to get here and it paid off."
This is the first state title for Head Coach Richard Goldenson who began his quest at SMC 11 years ago. "I guess this shows I know what I'm doing," joked Goldenson after the match, "this has been our goal since the end of last season so I'm happy for the girls."
The Corsairs, who have played the whole season with a great deal of confidence, admitted they were a little nervous before their matches but seemed to settle down as the afternoon progressed.
"Once I got on the court and started warming up I felt fine," said Krystal Hansard, who cruised to what looked like an easy win as she defeated Sierra colleges Nathalie Davis in straight sets 6-2 and 6-1 for the first win of the afternoon.
"I was a little stressed before my match," said Co-captain Jutta Collet, "but I think that we were so confident that it wasn't that big of a deal for a lot of us."
The center court match-up of the team championship featured SMC's top ranked Katerina Mozolyuk and Sierras talented Kelsey Chrisco, who had met two weeks prior in Ojai where Mozolyuk beat her en route to the tournament championship.
The outcome this time was no different as Mozolyuk, who was just named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's (ITA) Rookie of the Year, once again beat her opponent in straight sets 6-2 and 6-0.
Collet did not have such an easy road to victory in her win against Sierras Cortnei Chance as the two went back and forth in the first set before Collet finally won it 7-5 which clearly deflated the confidence of Chance as Collet went on to win the second set 6-2.
With all the other matches complete, it was up to Kaufmann to win her match to clinch the title and avoid doubles as they had done for all of the playoffs.
After a first set that was similar to Collet's, Kaufmann once again showed a lot of emotion on the court as she had to battle back after being down early. However as she had done the week before in the third round against Grossmont she battled back and took the first set 7-5.
"I just kept fighting," said Kaufmann after the match, "I was really nervous during that first set and I really didn't calm down until coach came and talked to me."
In the second and final set up 5-2 with all her teammates looking on, Kaufmann dropped a soft shot over the net just out of the reach of Sierra's Ariana Pardis to win the set 6-2 and clinch the first ever Women's Team State Championship in the school's history.
"This could be the start of something big," said SMC Athletic Director Joe Cascio following the match, "this is our first state title in a while."
In the individual singles final, Mozolyuk, for the third time in four weeks was paired up against Grossmont colleges Jazmine Ortiz, who didn't make it easy on Mozolyuk.
The match went three sets with Mozolyuk losing the second set 6-7 before securing the title with a 6-3 win in the third set.
The doubles team of Krystal Hansrad and Criss Rodriguez easily defeated Grossmont's top raked duo of Jazmine Ortiz and Sharon Riebstein 6-2 and 6-1 to complete the "Triple Crown."
For coach Goldenson, this marks the end of a successful season with a talented group of women that accomplished all the goals they set for themselves.
"They are self motivated and very serious," said Goldenson, "they never got to excited after matches and stayed focused all year." He added, "I have people come up to me after matches and tell me what great people these women are, they really are a pleasure to coach."
Looking down the road, Goldenson is ready to build a "dynasty." "We have four players returning and some talented recruits coming in next year so I feel pretty good about the future," said Goldenson.
There are four potential recruits on Goldenson's radar that fit the mold of tennis player that the Coach looks for.
"They have to study hard and get good grades," said Goldenson, "self motivation is important," he added, "they have to be motivated to get to this level of tennis."
As a coach he believes that it is the job of he and his coaching staff to provide the opportunity for self-motivation by stepping back and letting the players play their game. "We have to create that positive environment for them," said Goldenson.
As far as getting the word out about SMC tennis, Goldenson says their accomplishments speak for themselves. "We got the number one singles player in the state, we've got the number one doubles team in the state, and we have the number one team in the state."