WINSTON SALEM, N.C. - Ole Miss women's tennis senior Arianne Hartono made history Monday, becoming the first player in program history to win an NCAA Championship, defeating Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey 6-4, 6-2, to take the singles crown at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
Hartono joins 2009 men's tennis NCAA Champion Devin Britton as players from Ole Miss to win an NCAA singles title.
A slow start for the SEC Player of the Year allowed Lahey to go up a break 3-1 in the first set. Hartono had been in this position several times this past week including in the semifinals when she saved several match points. Facing more break points Hartono came up with some big shots to hold, then Lahey held for 4-2. That's when the momentum began to shift. Hartono held and then broke Lahey twice to steal the first set 6-4.
Both players held to start the second set, but in the third game, Lahey fell on her ankle. After a brief timeout, she returned to the court, but Hartono finished off a service hold and then grabbed the first break to go up 3-1.
Hartono gained another break to serve for the match at 5-1, but Lahey came up with some outstanding shots to break for 5-2 and momentarily extend the match. Not about to let the trophy slip through her racket, Hartono broke right back for 6-2 to clinch the title.
- Hartono became the first player in program history to win the NCAA singles title and the second tennis player from Ole Miss. Current men's tennis assistant coach Devin Britton became the youngest ever men's player to win the title in 2009.
- Hartono finished the year 37-6 and moved to a tie for second on the all-time single-season wins list.
- Hartono ranks eighth all time at Ole Miss with 97 career wins.
- Hartono finished the year winning 17 straight matches, including 23 wins against ranked opponents.
- Hartono earned SEC Player of the Year honors and ITA Co-Senior Player of the Year honors this year while helping lead the Rebels to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and their highest final national ranking (6) since 1999.
Road to the Championship...
First Round -  Hartono def. #20 Vladica Babic (OSU) 7-5, 7-5
Second Round -  Hartono def. #47 Vanessa Wong (UW) 6-0, 6-2
Round of 16 -  Hartono def. [9-16] Paige Hourigan (GT) 6-1, 6-2
Quarterfinals -  Hartono def. # 27 Luisa Stefani (PEPP) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
Semifinals -  Hartono def. #22 Mayar Sherif (PEPP) 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(2)
Final -  Hartono def. #17 Ashley Lahey (PEPP) 6-4, 6-2 Courtside with Head Coach Mark Beyers...
On swinging the momentum back in her favor...
"Ari won a few deuce games in the first set to keep it close. Ashley was playing better tennis and we were trying to find our way into the match. That's where the no-ad scoring can either hurt you or help you. In this case we won all the no-ad games and it helped us get in the match. Assistant coach Grant Roberts did an amazing job of keeping Ari in the match when she got off to a slow start, getting her going. They had a good game plan, and he kept emphasizing it to her. We were able to pull even in the match and then really take charge. What a fantastic way to cap an outstanding career."
On what Ari has meant to the program...
"What an amazing season! She's such a great person. Everything she does on the court and in the classroom, she's going to be successful with whatever she does in life. She's going to go out and play on tour, and I believe she can have success doing that. I would love to have six more like her and for her to have 22 more years of eligibility."
Courtside with Arianne Hartono...
"I have no words right now. It's been such an amazing year, and to end my senior year and my career with this is unreal."
On what it means to become program's first National Champion...
"I am so grateful to everyone who helped me get to this position, all the people who have pushed me, it means so much to me. I wear Ole Miss across my chest proudly, because it's not just for me, it's for everyone who loves Ole Miss."
On what turned it around in the first set...
"Women's tennis is tricky. All it takes is one moment and the entire match can turn around. It was such a quick momentum shift from 4-3 down to 5-4 up and 6-4. That's all I needed to take over. I knew that she's a hard hitter and we're playing indoors, so it's going to come fast. I just tried to make the rallies as long as possible and whenever I get my shot I'll take it. I tried to be consistent, patient and work the points."
Hartono's national title caps an outstanding year for Ole Miss, the best since 1999. Look for a complete recap of the season next week with more thoughts from head coach Mark Beyers.