After having already defeated three ranked opponents in the last two days, junior Caroline Brinson, the 72nd-ranked player nationally, capped a tremendous tournament with a 6-7, 6-0, 6-4 victory over sixth-ranked Stephanie Wagner of Miami to claim the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional singles crown.
“My mindset has been to be aggressive and have fun,” said Brinson. “It’s just taking (the matches) one at a time. That was the goal from the first match. Every match in regionals is going to be a tough one.”
The win for Brinson was her second over a top-six opponent in the tournament. She becomes the first Bulldog to claim the southeastern crown since teammate Silvia Garcia won in 2013. She also improves to 14-1 in fall action after six victories over the weekend.
“What a great experience; it’s so much fun to be at home and play at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex,” said Head Coach Jeff Wallace. “For Caroline to cap off the tournament with the singles title is really huge. Caroline is one of those players that brings it every day, and I’ve always said good things happen for people that work hard every day. She came out and had a great weekend.”
A closely-fought first set went to Wagner, an ITA All-American, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead early on. Brinson battled back, taking the next three games and five of the next six, to go up 5-3. Wagner would not go down easily, forcing a tie break which she took 7-2.
Brinson breezed through the second set, taking it 6-0 over her opponent. It was the first time that Wagner had been blanked in any set this season.
Wagner started hot in the game’s decisive set, taking the first two games before Brinson claimed the third in a deuce to cut the deficit to 2-1. Brinson took the next two games as well to take a 3-2 lead, but Wagner claimed the sixth game with a deuce win on Brinson’s serve, knotting the final set at three games apiece. After splitting the next two games, Brinson rallied to take the final set 6-4.
“I knew I was going to have challenges,” Brinson said. “I just came out and did what I knew I could do, and ultimately it went my way.”
The junior emerged victorious from a crowded field that included 20 ranked singles players from 15 teams across Georgia and Florida. Brinson weathered the draw, which featured a contest against teammate Kenney Shaffer, and claimed her first title as a Bulldog.
“Every seeded player here was ranked,” Wallace added. “We even had some players that weren’t seeded and were ranked. Arguably, this is by far the best region in the country. To be able to have a player on your team win it is super exciting and fantastic.”
The Bulldogs will head into fall break before heading to Orlando for another tournament the first weekend of November.