NCAA women's tennis: UCLA, Stanford and USC on to quarterfinals

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UCLA, Stanford and USC advanced to the NCAA women's tennis tournament quarterfinals in Sweet 16 action Friday in Waco, Texas, while Cal came out on the wrong side of a nailbiting decision to the Cardinal. The Bruins, Cardinal and Trojans will play Sunday for a chance to go to the semifinals.

UCLA

The defending-champion Bruins dominated singles play en route to a 4-1 victory over 10th-seeded Texas A&M, exacting revenge on the Aggies for a 4-3 loss to Texas A&M in the 2013 semifinals. The Bruins now find themselves in a rematch of last year’s national championship bout against North Carolina, won by UCLA 4-3.

Like Thursday during men’s play, the elements forced things indoors with the Aggies closing in on the doubles point. The sophomore international tandem of Rutuja Bhosale (India) and Saska Gavrilovska (Serbia) gave A&M a 1-0 lead by taking down Terri Fleming and Chanelle Van Nguyen 8-6.

Space constraints indoors mean that singles play would only start on three courts, all of which were dominated by the Bruins. Sophomore Jennifer Brady knotted things up at 1-1 with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles over Bhosale, while Van Nguyen quickly followed at No. 2 with another a 6-3, 6-2 result. It took the top-ranked player maybe a tad longer than she would have hoped, but Robin Anderson came back from a first-set setback to take down 26th-ranked Rachel Pierson in three sets (4-6, 6-1, 6-1).

With the courts cleared up for the back end of the lineup, Catherine Harrison provided the clincher with a 6-1, 7-5 triumph over Ines Deheza.

The seventh-seeded Bruins and second-seeded Tar Heels will lock horns Sunday at 10 a.m. PT.  Texas A&M finishes up the 2015 campaign at 17-6 and does not lose any seniors for 2016.

[Related: 2015 NCAA women's tennis championships bracket (NCAA.com)]

Stanford

After losing twice to Cal in the regular season, No. 14 Stanford answered back in a major way with a 4-3 upset over No. 3 Cal. The Cardinal advances to the Elite 8 to face sixth-seeded Georgia Sunday at 10 a.m.

With split decisions at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, the first point up for grabs came down to a top-10 battle at the No. 1 spot, where Stanford’s second-ranked duo of Taylor Davidson and Carol Zhao edged out seventh-ranked Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr 8-6. With the doubles point in tow, Stanford appeared to be in good shape – the Cardinal was 17-1 when winning the doubles point heading into Saturday. Here’s the clinching doubles point, courtesy of Stanford women’s tennis’ Twitter account:

But Cal struck back in singles play, taking a 2-1 lead behind victories from 103rd-ranked Karla Popvic at No. 6 singles (6-1, 6-0 over Lindsey Kostas) and two-time singles All-American Zsofi Susanyi at No. 4 (6-1, 6-1 over 92nd-ranked Krista Hardebeck).

That said, Stanford had taken the first set on the other four courts and was still in good shape. Taylor Davidson quickly evened the score in a top-20 battle, where the 19th-ranked Davidson ran away from Pac-12 singles runner-up and No. 18 Klara Fabikova in two sets (6-4, 6-0). Next to strike was 25th-ranked Caroline Doyle, who gave the Cardinal a 3-2 edge with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Starr at No. 3. By this time, Cal’s Lynn Chi had a third-set lead over Ellen Tsay at No. 5 and Manasse was closing in on taking the second set from Zhao to force a third in a top-5 battle at No. 1 (Zhao is ranked second, while Manasse is fourth). And indeed, Chi ran away with a three-setter over Tsay (6-7, 6-0, 6-1) and Manasse took the second set, meaning it would all come down to the heavyweights for a third set on No. 1.

Zhao got an early break to go up 2-0 in the third set and stormed away from there, closing out Cal with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 triumph over Manasse.

California

Tough way to go out for the Golden Bears, but it was still a very successful season in Berkeley. Cal wraps up the 2015 campaign at 22-4 in large thanks to five top-50 singles players and two top-10 doubles teams. Susanyi, Fabikova, Starr and Manasse will stick around in Waco, as all four Golden Bears earned at-large spots in the NCAA singles and doubles championships (May 20-25).

USC

The top-ranked Trojans cruised to a 4-0 victory over 16th-seeded Texas Tech Friday night, setting up a quarterfinal bout with the winner of host Baylor or Virginia Sunday at 2 p.m. PT.

While the Trojans entered the match as the favorites, it never hurts to get a little extra good-luck message from a USC coaching legend:

Well-wishes from Carroll in hand, Giuliana Olmos and Zoë Scandalis took the last four games of their doubles match to clinch the doubles point for USC. Next, Sabrina Santamaria took care of fellow senior Kenna Kilgo 6-3, 6-1 on court one to make it 2-0 Women of Troy, while Scandalis quickly followed with a 6-1, 6-1 throttling of Sarah Dvorak at No.3 singles to put the Trojans a point away from the quarters.

First sets in hand on all but one court, it was only a matter of time before ITA Southwest Region Coach of the Year Richard Gallien’s players put the finishing touches on the Friday night affair. The final blow came from court six, where Meredith Xepoleas got past Katelyn Jackson in a two-setter (7-5, 6-1), notching her 20th consecutive singles match in the process.

The Trojans improve to 24-2 this year, while Texas Tech closes its campaign with its first trip to the NCAA Round of 16 in program history.

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