The women’s tennis team arrived in Greenville, South Carolina, on April 23, 2015, fully prepared to win its first Southern Conference Championship title.
The Bulldogs were regular season SoCon champs with a perfect 7-0 record in conference play. They entered the tournament as the top seed and with a considerable amount of momentum after closing their season on a three-match winning streak.
“We knew we were good enough to win and that we deserved to,” senior AnnMarie Lyon said. “But conference is a completely different story than regular season. Anybody can win. It’s all about which team wants it the most.”
The Bulldogs wanted it.
In the first round of the tournament, Samford faced Mercer. The ‘Dogs cruised to a 4-0 victory, their fourth shutout win in a row. They moved on to face Furman in the semifinals.
The semifinal match did not begin the way the Bulldogs were used to, however, and trailing Furman 3-2 with only two matches left on the courts, their championship hopes began to look bleak.
In the championship match, Samford was pitted against ETSU.
These teams had only faced each other once during the regular season, an event in which Samford narrowly escaped with a 4-3 win. The championship match was a slightly different story.
The Bulldogs won convincingly 4-1 with senior Yasmeen Ebada, who transferred to Samford from Alabama after her sophomore year, scoring the final point.
“I’ve never been happier. Transferring was a huge deal for me, and clinching the final match meant a lot,” Ebada said. “It was really emotional. I felt like I was going to cry during match point.”
The Bulldogs racked up the SoCon awards this year. On top of the conference title, Stephanie N’tcha was named 2015 SoCon Player of the Year, David Vest was named 2015 SoCon Coach of the Year and Jessica Northcutt, Yasmeen Ebada, Savannah Wood and Carita Moolman all garnered conference awards.
“We worked really hard for this moment,” Ebada said. “We knew how it felt to lose last year and we didn’t want to be in that same boat this year.”
“We wanted it a little more than everyone else, and that showed. What we found last year is that when it comes to finals, the team that wants it more is going to come out on the better end. And that’s what we did,” Ebada said.
“It was so rewarding to see all of our hard work, not just from this year but from the last four years altogether, be paid off,” Lyon said. “All of the early mornings and workouts and long practices, it just makes it worth it.”
With Ebada and Lyon both being seniors, they know that their time at Samford is quickly coming to a close.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s definitely more sweet than bitter now that we won and did what we were aiming to do,” Lyon said. “We are leaving as the best team in the Southern Conference. It doesn’t get sweeter than that.“
The ‘Dogs season is not over yet, though, as the team punched its ticket to the NCAA Championships. They will face No. 13 Alabama in the opening round on May 8.