NCAA Tennis Championships : Jung Will Meet Leaycraft in Final
Four years ago, Steven Jung was a lightly recruited junior player from Hacienda Heights in search of a tennis program.
“My parents were about to have four kids in college,” Jung said. “Getting a scholarship was a necessity.”
When the West Coast schools ignored him, Jung picked Nebraska over Indiana. Now, after what he terms “consistent improvement over four years,” Jung is on the brink of the singles title at the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships.
The unseeded Jung (34-4) will meet Louisiana State’s Donni Leaycraft (30-7) today at the University of Georgia.
The doubles final, which begins immediately after the singles’ competition, will feature USC’s Eric Amend and Byron Black against UC Irvine’s Mike Briggs and Trevor Kronemann. A California school has won the doubles title five consecutive years with Trojan teams winning three in four years.
Both Jung and Leaycraft defeated Georgia players in Saturday’s semifinals. Jung eliminated Stephen Enochs in 70 minutes, 6-3, 6-2, and Leaycraft outlasted Francisco Montana, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.
Leaycraft, seeded in a group of players from nine to 16, is the first LSU player to reach a singles final; Jung is the first Big Eight player to accomplish the feat.
Two years ago, USC’s Rick Leach and Scott Melville defeated Irvine’s Julian Barham and Darren Yates in the doubles finals.
“UC Irvine has never had a Division I national champ in tennis,” Briggs said. “Hopefully, we’ll be the first. It’s like Coach (Greg Patton) says, ‘You just put on the lamp shades and go to the party.’ ”
Doubles teams played quarterfinals and semifinals Saturday. In the semifinals, Briggs and Kronemann defeated Stanford’s Alex O’Brien and Jeff Tarango, 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-3. Amend and Black defeated Irvine’s Mark Kaplan and Richard Lubner for the third time this season, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.
“We used the same strategy against them each time,” Amend said. “We started slowly and then played back and made them hit volleys. They didn’t have anywhere to put it.”
Jung is no stranger to championship tennis. His older sister Pam was a two-time All-American at Pepperdine and currently plays the pro tour. Another sister, Debbie, competed at Cal Poly Pomona. In 1985, the Jungs were named tennis family of the year by the United States Tennis Assn. “My dad taught us all,” said Jung, who graduated two weeks ago with a degree in finance. “He wanted a sport that would bind us together. He didn’t think it would come to this.”
When Nebraska also offered Jung’s twin, Stuart, a scholarship, he decided to go to Lincoln, Neb. Stuart played doubles for the Cornhuskers.
“I understand why some of the California schools didn’t recruit me,” Steven said. “Nebraska took a risk with me. I appreciate it.”
Jung failed to win a set in two previous NCAA appearances. But he blossomed this season, winning a tournament in Milwaukee last January. He eventually was ranked No. 23 nationally, but might have been higher had Nebraska’s schedule included tougher competition.
“I’ve had four years of constant improvement,” he said. “I’ve slowly gotten better and better. My confidence has grown. I know I can play with the best. I feel there’s nobody who can beat me when my game is on.”
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