The women's champion, Audra Cohen, who defeated Lindsey Nelson of USC 7-5, 6-2, announced that she would leave the University of Miami after her junior year to try her hand at the pro tour.
"It's definitely a tough decision," said Cohen, 21. "I have a team of my best friends to leave behind, the college atmosphere that I'm walking away from. But I feel like it's my time. I've won so many college tournaments and been No. 1 in the country for a while, and it's my time to go out and play."
"I think she's ready and that she's making the right decision," said her coach, Paige Yaroshuk-Tews. "She's definitely going to be missed, but she's making the right decision for herself."
Since her dramatic comeback in the round of 16 against Celia Durkin, where she trailed 6-3 4-0 0-40, Cohen has been playing high-level tennis. But in the final, she started slowly and trailed 5-3 in the first set before reeling off the next nine games of the match.
"In the beginning I was rushing myself," said Cohen, of Plantation, Fla. "I was a little bit nervous; it was a big moment, big crowd; it took me a little while to get comfortable on the court and to start dictating the pace of the play."
Nelson, of Villa Park, Calif., hits two-handed from both sides, and flat and early are the watchwords of her style. But the thin six-footer couldn't keep the errors out of her game, and she noted that as the major difference between her play and Cohen's.
"She didn't miss - at all," said Nelson, who lost in the NCAA final for the second straight year. "And I missed a lot of balls. I made a lot of winners, but I missed way too many. Her slice was very effective today, her high balls were deep and heavy and it was difficult."
At 5-0, Nelson held and broke, but although she kept fighting, Nelson admitted it was "too late." As for Cohen, even the knowledge that it was her last collegiate match didn't give her any incentive to prolong it. "The quicker the better," she laughed afterwards. "And frankly, at the end, when it was 5-0 and then it was 5-2, it wasn't going quick enough."
As Cohen leaves college tennis with three major titles - the ITA Indoor, the ITA All-American and the NCAA individual - she looks back on the Hurricanes' 2006 NCAA season as one of the highlights of her college career.
"Getting the team to the finals was great. We were kind of underrated, but we just had heart; we didn't have all of the talent that the other teams had, we just had the fight, and that's something that helped me along the way. It helped me today and it will help me in the future as well."
It makes sense she's won the college career slam (All-American, Indoors, and NCAA singles). There's nothing for her to win except team titles and doubles titles.