NCAA WTEN: UCLA, USC advance to semis

UCLABruins.com

Top-seeded USC and UCLA advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA women's tennis championships Sunday, while Stanford fell in the quarterfinals. USC and UCLA will play on opposite sides of the bracket at 3 p.m. PT with a chance to meet each other in the finals.

UCLA

A year after edging North Carolina 4-3 in a thrilling national championship match, seventh-seeded UCLA breathed a tad easier in a 4-1 quarterfinal victory over the second-seeded Tar Heels. Handing the Tar Heels just their second loss of the season, UCLA will play sixth-seeded Georgia in the semifinals Monday.

Although the Bruins got behind in doubles when Chanelle Van Nguyen and Terri Fleming were quickly beaten 8-0 by ITA Carolina Region Senior Player of the Year Caroline Price and Kate Vialle, Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady posted an 8-5 victory at No. 1 doubles and Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips followed with an 8-4 triumph at No. 2 to claim the doubles point for the Bruins.

Forty-seventh-ranked Jennifer Brady, who lost her singles match in last year’s national championship game, gave UCLA a 2-0 lead after scoring a 6-4, 6-1 upset over the 20th-ranked Price. North Carolina’s Whitney Kay, ranked 102nd in ITA women’s singles, quickly followed with an upset of her own over 33rd-ranked Harrison (6-3, 6-4) to close the gap to 2-1. However, it wasn’t much longer before Van Nguyen handled Haley Carter 6-0, 6-2 to put the Bruins one match victory away from the Final Four.

With No. 5 and No. 6 singles in third sets, it was on top-ranked Robin Anderson to try to end things as quickly as possible. Trailing 6-5 in the second set, Anderson won the last two games over seventh-ranked Jamie Loeb to post a 6-3, 7-6(1) victory to send the Bruins to the semis. Anderson beat Loeb last year at No. 1 singles 6-2, 6-2 in the title bout when Anderson was ranked second and Loeb was No. 1. This is how Anderson knocked her off this year:

Triumph over the Tar Heels in tow, head coach Stella Sampras Webster has now guided UCLA to five straight national semifinals.

USC

USC again played up to its No. 1 seed, breezing past host Baylor 4-1 to advance to the semifinals. There, USC will face the winner of Florida and Vanderbilt at 3 p.m. PT.

The Trojans, who are seeking their first national championship since 1985, earned a hard-fought doubles point thanks to Zoë Katz and Sabrina Santamaria edging out Ema Burgic and Rachael James-Baker 8-7(1) at No. 1 doubles after the Trojans and Bears split on the other two courts.

USC was much more in control when singles play started, as Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year Madison Westby scooted past James-Baker 7-6, 6-2 at No. 4 singles to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead. With fellow frosh Gabby Smith and Meredith Xepoleas each closing in on two-set victories, it was only a matter of time before the Trojans punched their ticket to the Final Four.

Xepoleas struck first with a 6-4, 6-2 triumph over freshman Kelley Anderson at No. 6, giving Xepoleas her 21st consecutive singles victory. Burgic put Baylor on the board with a 6-2, 7-6 win over Santamaria at No. 1 singles, but Smith provided the clincher soon thereafter by besting Namibia native Theresa Van Zyl 6-1, 6-4.

This is the Trojans’ first trip to the national semis since 2012, when the rival Bruins beat USC 4-3 to advance to the finals (Florida swept UCLA to win the national championship that year). 

Stanford

After upsetting No. 3 Cal in the round of 16, the magic ran out for 14th-seeded Stanford in a 4-1 quarterfinal loss to sixth-seeded Georgia. The loss ends a remarkable run in which Stanford had won 10 of its last 11 NCAA tournament matches when seeded lower than its opponent.

Stanford was no match for Georgia in doubles, with the Bulldogs winning 8-2 on courts one and three. The margin of victory at No. 1 doubles was a bit of a surprise, as the Stanford tandem of Taylor Davidson and Carol Zhao is ranked second collegiately (they fell to 11th-ranked Lauren Herring and Ellen Perez). The doubles result was a bad omen for the Cardinal, as Stanford was just 1-4 when losing the doubles point heading into Sunday.

No. 94-ranked Silvia Garcia put Georgia up 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-2 upset of 25th-ranked Caroline Doyle at No. 3 singles, but 19th-ranked Davidson quickly answered with a two-set triumph over Perez at No. 2 (6-2, 6-4) to claw within 2-1. Hannah King put Stanford on the brink by edging Ellen Tsay in three sets (6-2, 2-6, 6-3) at No. 5.

No. 92-ranked Krista Hardebeck kept Stanford’s hopes alive as long as she could, fighting off multiple match points and nearly erasing a 5-1 deficit against 59th-ranked Kennedy Shaffer but fell just short. The freshman Shaffer clinched the match on court four (6-3, 0-6, 6-4).

Lele Forood’s squad ends the season 18-6, but the Cardinal will be busy in NCAA singles and doubles action. Davidson, Doyle and Zhao are all in the singles draw, while Zhao/Davidson and Doyle/Tsay are in the doubles bracket.

 

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