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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Vanderbilt women’s tennis team claimed its first SEC Tournament title in dramatic fashion Sunday, taking a 4-3 win over Georgia.No. 4 seed Vanderbilt, ranked ninth nationally, took the doubles point and an overall 3-0 lead. But Georgia claimed three singles matches, two of them in three sets, to tie it 3-3.Vanderbilt senior Marie Casares rallied at No. 5, beating Caroline Brinson 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, to claim the Commodores’ first SEC tournament title in three trips to the championship match. She spent much of the final set with teammates surrounding the court.“It’s just an incredible position to be in,” coach Geoff Macdonald said. “It’s kind of like lining up to kick a game-winning field goal in a huge football game, but doing it for 45 minutes straight. But Marie has been in it before, and I don’t even think she was nervous.”Casares’ 32 singles wins last season set a Vanderbilt record, which was broken by teammate Sydney Campbell this season. But this was Casares’ biggest victory to date.“I just looked at it as being in that position for a reason,” Casares said. “I just loved the moment.”Vanderbilt also got singles wins from Frances Altick (6-4, 6-1) and Astra Sharma (6-2, 6-1), who earned tournament MVP honors.In doubles, Campbell/Courtney Colton won 8-3 at No. 1, and Sharma/Ashleigh Antal earned an 8-6 victory at No. 2.Vanderbilt had already knocked off No. 5 seed Alabama 4-0 on Friday and No. 1 seed Florida 4-2 on Saturday to advance to the final. The Commodores now await their 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, all during Macdonald’s tenure.Reach Adam Sparks at 615-259-8010 and on Twitter @AdamSparks.
Early goals from Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott earned Arsenal victory over 10-man Wolves in a game that was largely decided within 11 minutes.Sebastien Bassong saw red for bringing down Walcott, with Van Persie dinking the penalty over Wayne Hennessey.Walcott then played a neat one-two before shooting low into the net.Wolves went closest when Wojciech Szczesny saved Kevin Doyle’s header after the break, but Yossi Benayoun then converted to seal the win.The hosts brought centre-back Christophe Berra on to replace midfielder David Davis between the two early goals, in response to Bassong’s dismissal. But such is the mood at bottom-of-the-table Wolves that the crowd greeted the substitution by directing choruses of “you don’t know what you’re doing” at boss Terry Connor, no matter that Berra saw a header deflected just wide from a corner soon after. The defeat was the seventh on the trot for the hosts, who stay six points behind 19th-placed Blackburn and nine points from safety with five games left.For Arsenal, whose fine end-of-season form continues, the result keeps them third and moves them five points ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham.That gap could grow to eight points before Spurs play again, should the Gunners beat Wigan next Monday, and with Van Persie returning to goalscoring form after a four-game drought, they will be favourites to stay ahead of their north London rivals. The Dutchman’s cute penalty after he set Walcott free on eight minutes was his 33rd goal of the season and his 45th in 50 Premier League games.And his combination with Walcott to set up the second goal, cutting through the home defence, effectively ended the game as a contest before it was quarter of an hour old. The England winger scored his 11th of the season, just two short of his best tally for the Gunners, though he was booed by the home supporters for what they considered a dive for the spot-kick.With the ironic cheers for consecutive Wolves passes and any decisions awarded to the hosts by referee Neil Swarbrick, at one stage Molineux felt more like a pantomime rather than a football match.Yet Connor’s side improved after the break as Doyle and substitute Nenad Milijas were denied by brilliant Szczesny saves. In fairness, Arsenal’s sloppiness was a factor in that revival, with Van Persie and Aaron Ramsey, starting in place of Tomas Rosicky, wasting good chances.But once Benayoun tucked in from the edge of the area on 69 minutes, after Alex Song’s pull-back, the result was confirmed. It had looked a long road to salvation for Wolves before the game, but with Wigan and QPR both winning it may now be an impossible one.Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:“It is important for a striker, even like Robin van Persie who was not used to not scoring in the season, to find the net.“He equalled the record of Ian Wright who scored against 17 different teams out of 19 in the Premier League.“That is absolutely remarkable in the modern game to be able to do that. I’d like to congratulate him on that. “It was overall a fantastic win. I’m very happy to be in this position but also very cautious as some teams were in the position we are in now before.”