"I'm so proud of these ladies," Coach Geoff Macdonald said. "What a great way to start off their senior year. We have amazing upperclass leadership, and that is a big reason that our team is going to be among the nation's elite all season."
Tsoubanos, the 2002 ITA All-American doubles champion with 2003 graduate Sarah Riske, became the first player ever to win two ITA All-American doubles titles. This year's tournament took a little more work for the Chesterfield, Mo., native, who along with Riske was the No. 1 seed of last year's main draw. The 2003 pairing of Tsoubanos and Santa Barbara, California's Schmandt was seeded second in the qualifying draw.
The pair breezed through Tuesday and Wednesday's qualifying matches, giving up only eight games in three pro-sets to advance to Thursday's main draw. Their next four matches were all against top-15 competition. The duo defeated teams from SEC-rivals Louisiana State, Florida and Georgia to reach Sunday's final match against No. 6 Christelle Grier/Jessica Rush from Northwestern. In the championship match, Schmandt and Tsuobanos, playing as a team in their first collegiate tournament, earned a hard-fought 8-6 win.
"I am very happy for these girls -- they are the biggest 'comeback kids' I have ever coached," first-year Vanderbilt assistant Meike Babel said. "There was no more-deserving team at this tournament. They have the biggest hearts of any pair I've seen. They fought through qualifying and battled in every single match, always keeping their heads in the game."
"This win is very special," Tsoubanos said. "It's different than last year with Sarah. Kelly and I came out here as a pair of seniors, having never really played together before. We stuck to our fundamentals all week. We never really played 'lights out,' but we did what we had to do and things worked out in our favor."
"We knew we were doing the right things, and our coach told us to keep perservering," Schmandt said. "The balls eventually started falling in our favor. We were playing a really solid team today, we just had to stick with it.
"I've always really enjoyed playing doubles, but I've looked forward to the opportunity to play with Aleke. She beat me in one of my last juniors' tournaments in doubles, and it was great to work together this time to win a big trophy."
Later this month, Vanderbilt will play host to the June Stewart Invitational Tournament October 24-26 at the Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Tennis Center before wrapping up the fall season in November.