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Georgia Gwinnett College’s Maria Genovese, right, and Stephanie Fernandez celebrate after winning the ITA Cup championship.

ROME – Sunday brought another remarkable achievement for Georgia Gwinnett College’s perennial top-ranked women’s tennis program.

The No. 1-seeded doubles team of senior Maria Genovese and sophomore Stephanie Fernandez earned a hard-fought three-set victory to capture the NAIA doubles national championship to conclude the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Cup at the Rome Tennis Center.

Genovese becomes the first player in GGC women’s tennis history to earn team, singles and doubles national titles during a career. Genovese won the 2020 NAIA singles title before helping lead the Grizzlies to the 2021 NAIA national team title, the program’s sixth team championship.

“It is a great way to start my last year representing my school,” said Genovese. “It meant everything to learn that I have done something that nobody else has done in this program.”

Head coach Chase Hodges added, “Maria has definitely staked her claim as the best women’s tennis player in program history. What she has done for in her college career is simply remarkable.”

The history-making achievement didn’t come easily, with Genovese-Fernandez working overtime to defeat the No. 3-seeded opposing team from Keiser University (Fla.). The GGC team won the first set 6-3 before tables turned and the Keiser duo came back strong with a 6-1 triumph.

Leading 5-4 in the deciding third set, Genovese-Fernandez broke the Keiser team’s service game to grab the match point for the 6-4 victory. Keiser’s Nicole Coopersmith, the tournament’s top-seeded singles player, and Genovese traded shots from the baseline before an overhead lob shot was missed.

Genovese stated, “We kept it simple in that final game and had the confidence that we could come out on top. We hit each ball confidently and treated each point like it was match point.”

“I have the best doubles partner,” Fernandez said. “You come to GGC for winning moments like this.”

Hodges remarked, “Stephanie and Maria have established a great relationship and they complement each other very well. We felt they were a good doubles team after winning the (ITA South) regional a few weeks ago. It was a battle today against a good Keiser team.”

This marked the second straight year that Genovese had been a member of a team that advanced to the championship round of the ITA Cup’s NAIA doubles draw. She and sophomore Eva Siska suffered a disappointing loss to an opponent from Xavier University (La.) in the 2020 finale.

“Preparation and knowing what to expect this time around helped. We brought the energy and got off to a good start,” said Genovese.

Sunday’s women’s doubles championship meant the Georgia Gwinnett College tennis program captured three of the four 2021 NAIA individual titles (women’s doubles, men’s singles and men’s doubles).

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