Laney High School alum Ashleigh Antal helped guide the Vanderbilt women’s tennis team to its first ever NCAA National Championship last week as the Commodores defeated UCLA 4-2 in the final match of the season.
Vanderbilt (25-6) capped its historic run with the victory, joining the school’s baseball and women’s bowling programs as the select three to have won such crowns.
It was the Commodores’ third all-time trip to the Final Four and first in the title match since 2001. By defeating UCLA (23-5), Vanderbilt concluded its postseason run by knocking off fifth-seeded Florida for the third time this year (was 2-45 all-time against UF entering the year), top-seeded USC and the Bruins, who were the defending national champions.
Following an 8-3 win on court one in doubles play, No. 18 Antal and Astra Sharma fell to the Bruins’ No. 3 ranked duo of Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips, 8-5. With the loss, the tandem dropped their 19-match win streak, but the Commodores still had their eyes set on the big picture.
With a 2-1 lead after doubles competition, Antal joined three others in singles play to each earn a point to clinch the championship.
The Wilmington native powered through her first set against the Bruin’s Kaitlin Ray. She only surrendered one game in the opening set, but Ray fought back in the second to force Antal to a tiebreaker. With a loss in doubles and her last singles match with the Black and Gold potentially going to a third set, Antal brought home the second point with 6-1, 7-6(6) win.
Vanderbilt also claimed the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament title for the first time in school history earlier this year.
As a senior, Antal received numerous accolades over her college career including 2014 SEC All-Tournament Team, 2014 Spring SEC Academic Honor Roll, 2013 SEC Academic Honor Roll, 2012 SEC All-Freshman Team. The former Laney Buc went 23-7 during the regular season as an individual this year and recorded a career best 25 singles wins in 2014 as a junior.
During her time at Laney, Antal was team captain junior and senior years and earned two varsity letters in tennis.