NCAA women's tennis: Stanford and UCLA move on to semis

StanfordPhoto.com/UCLA Athletics

It was a perfect day in NCAA women's tennis action for the Pac-12. Stanford defeated Virginia and UCLA beat Duke in quarterfinal matchups Saturday, paving the way for both teams to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA championships on Monday.

Stanford

In what has to be some kind of record, No. 11 Stanford (20-2) has won nine straight NCAA postseason tournament matches as the lower-seeded team after defeating No. 3 Virginia (24-6) 4-2 in Saturday’s quarterfinal round. The Cardinal will try to extend the streak vs. seventh-seeded North Carolina on Monday at 10 a.m. PT.

 

Stanford is 5-2 when losing the doubles point in the last five years of NCAA postseason action, but that stat did not come into play Saturday. With Stanford’s top team of Kristie Ahn and Carol Zhao taking care of matters easily in No. 1 doubles and Virginia’s tandem of Danielle Collins and Maci Epstein doing the same on No. 3, the doubles point came down to court dos. There, Stanford’s Taylor Davidson and Ellen Tsay outlasted Virginia’s Julia Elbaba and Rachel Pierson (the No. 7 doubles team in the nation) 8-5 to give Stanford a 1-0 lead.

Tallies seemed to come rapidly in twos in singles play. Davidson knocked off Pierson 6-4, 6-1 to put Stanford up 2-0, but the Wahoos fired right back with Collins’ 6-4, 6-2 win on No. 2 over Krista Hardebeck to cut the Cardinal edge to 2-1. Just as the Hoos tied it up 2-2 thanks to Epstein edging Tsay in two sets, sweet Caroline Doyle had an unblemished third set on court six to give Nerd Nation a 3-2 lead.

With Kristie Ahn in trouble on No. 1 (btw, great battle between two top-5 players in No. 3 Ahn and No. 4 Elbaba), trailing a set and losing in the second, 21st-ranked Zhao had the power to keep her doubles teammate from registering a loss and punch a ticket to the final four for her team. The freshman Zhao found herself in another tiebreaking set with 53rd-ranked Stephanie Nauta after already having won a first-set tiebreaker. Niether player backed down in a second-set tiebreaker filled with long rallies, but eventually Zhao ripped a forehand deep into the corner that Nauta could not return to seal the set and match for Stanford, winning on No. 3 7-6(1), 7-6(4).

 

This was the first NCAA quarterfinals appearance in school history for the Wahoos.

UCLA

UCLA’s eyes probably lit up after blanking Miami—not just because the Bruins were headed to the quarterfinals, but because they would get another shot at fourth-seeded Duke. The Bruins played the Blue Devils in the ITA National Team indoor final in February, a match that UCLA lost 4-3 after blowing a 3-0 lead. There was no San Jose Sharking it this time around however, as the fifth-seeded Bru Cru upended Duke 4-2 to advance to a semifinal matchup Monday against Florida at 10 a.m. PT.

Another hard-fought Pac-12/ACC clash; another 4-2 decision in favor of the West Coast side.

The Bruins won the doubles point relatively comfortably, as the top-ranked doubles team of Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady got back on track after a Thursday loss with an 8-5 decision over Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar to make it a 1-0 start (Chanelle Van Nguyen and Courtney Dolehide won 8-3 in No. 3 doubles beforehand).

While UCLA was able to go fo’-fo’-fo’ in the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament, UCLA would surrender a point to an opponent for the first time in the NCAA tournament this year when Duke’s Rachel Kahan made quick work of Kaitlin Ray in No. 6 singles 6-2, 6-1 (big ups to Kahan, a redshirt junior who has never lost a match in the NCAA postseason). And then the Bruins got down 2-1 when Hanna Mar unseated 2013 Pac-12 singles champion Kyle McPhillips in two sets. Time to panic?

Not at all, because UCLA still had three top-20 players going, and all of ‘em were in good shape. Soon after falling behind 2-1, second-ranked Robin Anderson evened things up with a 7-6, 6-3 triumph over Beatrice Capra in No. 1 singles before 13th-ranked Van Nguyen took care of Chalena Scholl in two hotly contested sets (6-4, 7-5).

Although UCLA’s big hitters were doing work, it would be a lower-ranked racqueteer to clinch the match on No. 5 singles. No. 75 Catherine Harrison had lost her first set to Southern California native Alyssa Smith but stormed back with a vengeance to take the second set 6-1. Blistering the ball at the end of the third set, Harrison put away Smith 6-3 to send Stella Sampras Webster (Pete’s older sister) and Co. to the semis. Duke wraps up its season with an impressive 27-5 record, while UCLA improves to 25-2. This was Duke's 17th appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals.

 

The Bruins have the seeding edge over No. 8 Florida in the semis, but the Gators are fresh off an upset of top-seeded Georgia in the quarterfinals. Florida unseated the Bulldogs with a 4-1 result.

Women’s tennis takes a break Sunday while the men have their quarterfinal round. Both the men’s and women’s tennis semifinals will be contested Monday with each finals taking place on Tuesday.

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