Shari Reed is in her 22nd season as the women’s tennis coach at the University of Charleston, so she’s seen and done just about all there is to do in the sport.
On Tuesday, however, the Golden Eagles accomplished a first under Reed’s guidance — they qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament.
UC, the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Region II tournament, knocked off No. 3 Salem 4-1 at Kanawha City’s Schoenbaum Courts to claim its spot as one of the 16 teams going to Florida for the national tournament.
“We knew we had to win the doubles point and that was going to be key, because at that point we felt like we matched up pretty well at two or three spots with them,” Reed said. “When we clinched the doubles point, it was just a matter of everybody taking care of their own court and executing. They did, so we’re going to Florida.”
Making the accomplishment even sweeter for UC was the fact that Reed is set to retire after this season. Tuesday’s contest was her last at the helm of the Golden Eagles in Charleston, but the win against the Tigers keeps her career going just a little bit longer.
“This could have been my last match,” Reed said. “It’s been a pretty amazing and pretty emotional day for us.”
The Golden Eagles got off to a strong start Tuesday, taking the doubles point when the team of seniors Elise Edwards and Silvana Slusarciuc took a 6-3 win over Salem’s Ana Kunic and Karolina Glowinska 6-3.
Edwards, a native of Ontario, Canada and UC’s all-time women’s tennis wins leader, also knocked off Glowinska in No. 3 singles action 6-0, 6-2.
“We were all pretty confident but we knew there was always a chance [to lose], so we all went in with our heads on strong and playing for every point and believing in ourselves,” Edwards said. “We knew we could do it, and I think that really helped us.”
UC also got singles wins from junior Kristine Gegeshidze at No. 1 and an unopposed forfeit win by Regina Lopez Saucedo at No. 6.
“Elise has the all-time wins record and Kristine has only been here three years and is just a few wins behind,” Reed said. “I think they just took care of business as usual.”
The Golden Eagles’ win Tuesday gave the Mountain East Conference, and Kanawha County, two teams in the 16-team national field after top-seed West Virginia State beat Mercyhurst earlier in the day to qualify.
Reed said there is a strong respect between the two county rivals, and it’s a feather in the cap of the conference, city and county to send two teams to nationals.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Reed said. “[WVSU] Coach [J.T.] Simms and the athletic director Nate Burton and our AD Bren Stevens, we all talked about how cool that would be if we could all go. We’ve flip-flopped between No. 1 and No. 2 all season in the regional rankings and at the end of the day we had direct wins over everybody below us, so we knew we could do this in Charleston. We ended up doing it together at the same site, which made it more fun.”
The national tournament is scheduled to begin next Wednesday in Altamonte Springs, Florida.