Junior Jessica Bourque and senior Lisa Tessitore made Stevens women's tennis history Monday by winning the 2013 ITA Northeast Regional Doubles title.
The historic victory gives the duo ITA All-American recognition and entry into the National Small College Championships in Fort Myers, Fla. from Oct. 10-13. Both are program firsts.
Bourque and Tessitore stormed through this year's draw, dropping a total of nine games in five matches.
In Monday's best of three set final the Ducks went up against Shena Joseph and Jane Selegean of Hunter College.
Early match nerves and powerful returning resulted in seven consecutive breaks to open the match. Serving up 4-3, Tessitore and Bourque gave their Hawk opponents a different look by switching up their formations at the net. The strategic ploy seemed to pay off, the Ducks holding for the first time to go up 5-3. Bourque and Tessitore kept the pressure on in the next game to break and take the first set 6-3.
After a quick hold to open the second set, the 2012 Stevens semifinalists quickly engineered another break to go up 2-0. Ten minutes later Hunter College was serving down double championship point 0-5, 15-40.
"That was when it hit me that we were one point away from something special," said Tessitore.
The Lady Ducks only needed the one opportunity, Tessitore putting away an overhead winner on the last point for the 6-3, 6-0 win.
After the win, Coach Gachko touched on his team's focus throughout the tournament.
"I don't know if we've ever seen Lisa and Jess more dialed in then they were this weekend. It was great to see them execute the game-plan and apply what we've worked on in practice, especially on such a big stage."
Incredibly, the Hawks didn't hold serve once during the final, the Ducks breaking their opponents eight times. The Stevens pair never trailed in the match and won nine consecutive games after the 3-3 start. Reeling off consecutive games was nothing new for Tessitore and Bourque, who won six straight games after a 2-2 start vs. NYU in the semifinals, and seven straight after a 1-1 start vs. University of Rochester in the quarterfinals.
"The girls put on an impressive display of doubles dominance, not just today but throughout the entire tournament. They were relentless with their pressure at the net and on the return, and I think that was the difference between them and their opponents," said Coach Zeevy.
The pair's ITA success began at last year's tournament, when the Stevens duo knocked off the No. 1 seed and defending champions Skidmore 8-1 in the quarterfinals.
"The 2012 semifinal run helped us by giving us confidence and showing us that we can win this tournament. Unfortunately we froze up in the semis seeing how close we were. This year we knew we had to stay loose and focused and just embrace the fun in the tournament," said Tessitore.
Bourque, whose run to her third consecutive singles semifinal ended with a 6-3, 6-1 loss to No. 3 seed and tournament champion Brittany LaBruna of William Paterson, echoed her teammates sentiments.
"The key to our success this weekend was that we came into the tournament with no expectations or pressure. All we wanted to do was have fun and see where that took us. We also had a good breakfast today which definitely helped."
Tessitore, Bourque and Gachko will be heading to Fort Myers, Florida for the National Small College Championships October 10-13th. The eight regional doubles and singles champions from around the country are invited to the prestigious event. This marks the first time in program history that Stevens will be represented in the tournament.
"This is a very special day for our program. We're so proud to call Lisa and Jess All-Americans and look forward to the opportunity of competing at Small College Nationals," concluded Gachko.