Quigley’s Historic Career Ends with NCAA Runner-Up Finish
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Eric Quigley’s historic four-year career as a member of the University of Kentucky men’s tennis team came to an end Monday in the NCAA Singles Final as he fell in a tight battle to No. 1 Steve Johnson of Southern California at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. Johnson, who won the NCAA Singles title last season as well, earned late breaks in both the first and second sets to defeat the UK star 6-4, 6-4.
“I don’t even know where to begin, it has been the best four years of my life,” Quigley said about his career at Kentucky. “I never dreamed of accomplishing half the things that I was able to accomplish here. I really owe a lot to Cedric Kauffmann and Dennis Emery for all they have done for me. I don’t really have words to describe the last four years. It’s been a dream.”
The impressive tournament run by Quigley put him in exclusive company, becoming only the third player in school history to play in the NCAA Singles Final. The UK star joins fellow All-Americans Jesse Witten and Carlos Drada as the only players to advance to the finals of the singles event. Witten was the last to claim the feat, making the finals of the event in 2002, while Drada made the finals in 2000. Witten and Drada both lost in the finals. All three finals appearances occurred under the director of Dennis Emery.
Monday’s match was the second career finals appearance for Quigley in a collegiate grand slam. Quigley advanced to the finals of the D’Novo/Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships in 2010 to become only the sixth UK player to advance to a collegiate grand slam singles or doubles final. Quigley is now the second player in school history to advance to two grand slam finals, joining Witten, who went to the 2002 NCAA Singles Final and the 2004 ITA National Indoor Singles Finals.
Johnson and Quigley were neck and neck a majority of the match as only two breaks occurred the entire match. Both players held serve four times to start the match before Johnson broke Quigley at 4-4 to go up 5-4 and then held serve to claim the first set 6-4.
“I knew that I had to play aggressive today and step into the court,” Quigley said about the game plan entering the match. “I had to make shots because I knew he would not make mistakes, and he didn’t. I tried to lean and play the percentages, but he just hit too many big serves.”
The second set featured the same type of format as Quigley, who had several break points in the set, held serve in his first three service games before Johnson grabbed a break and then held serve to go up 5-3. Quigley would hold serve in dominating fashion to cut the lead to 5-4, but Johnson used great serving in his service game to hold serve and grab the 6-4 win.
“I thought I served well again today and had some chances, but he came up with some big first serves in key situations,” Quigley said. “That is what makes him so good is when he is able to make those big shots at such critical times of the match. I am happy with the way I played and I wish I would have won, but I’m not disappointed. I had a great career and a great week out here.”
“Eric played a good match today, but Steve served the ball so well in those difficult situations and that was the difference,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “Eric just couldn’t get over the hump and Steve deserves a lot of credit for how well he used his serve to get out of problems.”
This was the second career match between Quigley and Johnson, with the USC senior winning both matches. The previous matchup came in the 2011 NCAA Elite Eight matchup between UK and USC with Johnson taking down Quigley at the No. 1 singles position 6-4, 6-2.
Johnson, who has spent most the season ranked No. 1 in the nation on top of being voted the national winner of the ITA Senior Player of the Year Award, ends his collegiate career having won 72 consecutive singles match, last losing Jan. 17, 2011. This was the second consecutive singles title for Johnson at the event.
“I was asked after the match if Steve Johnson is the best collegiate player of all time and I think it’s hard to vote against him for that,” Emery said. “But what I think describes him best is that he is the most productive player of all time. When you win four team championships and two singles championships then you have had a very special career.”
Quigley had to defeat some of the best players in the nation to advance to the singles final, taking down five ranked players, including four that are ranked in the top 20 in the nation. The run to the finals began with a 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 41 Andre Dome of Cal Poly in the first round before Quigley defeated No. 18 Andreas Mies of Auburn 7-6 (4), 6-3 to advance to the round of 16. Quigley’s Sweet 16 win came in thrilling action, taking down No. 13 Artem Ilyushin of Mississippi State 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) before he earned a 6-4, 6-3 win over Henrique Cunha of Duke in the quarterfinals. Quigley faced No. 9 Blaz Rola of Ohio State in the semifinal Sunday, using a come-from-behind effort to grab the win 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1).
The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., ends his senior season with a 54-8 record, which is the most wins in a single season in school history. The impressive mark this year took Quigley’s career total to 172-47, which is the most wins in school history by a large amount, shattering the previous record by 27 wins.
The stellar tournament run by the UK star completed one of the most historic careers in school history. On top of being named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year this season, Quigley received the ITA Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award, which honors sportsmanship and on the court accomplishments. Quigley ends his career at Kentucky as a five-time All-American, earning three singles honors and two doubles honors. The senior was both a singles and doubles All-American this season.
Georgia Duo Falls Short of NCAA Doubles Title
ATHENS, Ga. - Stanford’s second-ranked duo of Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs claimed the NCAA Doubles Championship with a 6-2,6-4 win over Georgia’s Nadja Gilchrist and Chelsey Gullickson here Monday.
Due to rain, the final was played indoors, and the Stanford tandem jumped out to an early 3-0 edge. They were poised to go up 4-0 when the Bulldogs saved three break points and Gullickson held serve. Stanford remained on the attack and eventually picked up another break with Gullickson serving in the eighth game to take the first set 6-2.
In the second set, the hard-hitting Cardinal duo continued near flawless play and went up 3-1 before the Bulldogs notched their first break of the match on Burdette’s serve. Gullickson connected for a volley winner and Gilchrist came through with a backhand winner for the opportunity and then Burdette had a rare double fault on game point to pull Georgia to within 3-2. After Gilchrist held serve to even the set at 3-all, the partisan-Georgia crowd came alive. Gibbs provided a powerful service game and then a series of volley errors by the Bulldogs moved the Cardinal in front 5-3. Georgia managed to break Burdette to close the gap but the Stanford pair responded in the next game and Gibbs smashed a forehand winner down the line for the match. It was her second NCAA title of the day after beating Burdette for the singles crown.
“First of all, I want to say a special thanks to Coach Dan Magill for his vision and hard work that he’s put in that helped pave the way for another 12 days of amazing days of tennis at the complex that is named after him,” said Georgia coach Jeff Wallace. “It’s awesome to see him, and we need to remember all that he’s done for both Georgia tennis and college tennis. I’m proud of the way Nadja and Chelsey competed throughout their career and how they represented Georgia. Stanford got on a roll; it started in singles today for them and everything they hit went in during doubles. They played really well.”
“We started slow, but Stanford played great,” said Gullickson. “Today, we didn’t return as well as we had been, and I missed some volley opportunities. We finished our career with a loss, but we are two seniors who made it to the finals of the NCAAs.”
“I would’ve preferred to play outside because the inside courts play faster, and they hit it really hard,” said Gilchrist.”But the way Stanford was playing, it probably wouldn’t have mattered, but it would’ve been nice to play outside.”
The Burdette-Gibbs team end the year with a 35-5 record while the 27th-ranked tandem of Gullickson/Gilchrist wound up 24-8. For their career as a duo, the Bulldogs finished 64-21. This was the fourth time in Bulldog history that a team played for an NCAA doubles title. Marissa Catlin reached the finals with three different teammates, in 1997 with Michelle Anderson, in 1999 with Vanessa Castellano and in 2000 with Lori Grey. Gullickson ends her Bulldog career with a school record 230 wins including 69 this year, going 34-9 in singles and 35-12 in doubles.