Meridian, MS—Carlee Conway and Maria Cespedes, Marion Military Institute's dynamic pair of singles players, tore through their respective halves of the singles draw of the USTA/ITA Southern JUCO Regional Championships at the Northeast Tennis Center and wound up facing each other in the championship match on Saturday morning. Conway downed Cespedes, 6-2, 6-2, to claim the 2014 women's singles crown. Cespedes took home the runner-up plaque.
Conway's road to the championship was an easy one. As the No. 1-seeded player in the tournament, she received a first-round bye. After posting easy 6-0, 6-0 wins over opponents from Itawamba Community College and Hinds Community College, Conway defeated the No. 4-seeded player, Brittany DeCamp of Hinds Community College, 6-0, 6-0.
Cespedes, on the other hand, had to defeat two seeded players on her way to the championship match. As the No. 2-seeded player, she also secured a first-round bye and then double-breadsticked Julie Hatten of Mississippi Gulf Coast, 6-1, 6-1, in her second-round match. In the quarterfinal round, Cespedes dominated the No. 7-seeded player from Meridian Community College, Jennifer Smith, 6-0, 6-2. But it was in the semifinals where Cespedes displayed her athleticism and remarkable ball-striking ability, pounding not only the ball, but also her opponent, No. 3-seeded Taylor Patterson of Itawamba Community College, into submission, 6-2, 7-5.
"Diversity beat tenacity today," said Charles Wright, MMI's men's and women's tennis coach. "Play today was a study in contrasts. Carlee is a multifaceted player; Maria is a one-dimensional player. Carlee can play serve-and-volley tennis, she can play like a backboard from the baseline, she can drop shot and lob, and she can use slice and topspin shots. She can do it all. Maria, who barely budges from the baseline, has only one shot—hard line drives from both the forehand and backhand wings. Both girls played well, though. I doff my tennis visor to the two of them."
Conway and Cespedes will now compete in the 2014 USTA/ITA National Small College Championships. The Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter, SC, will host the tournament from October 9-12.