Monday, 21 May 2018 23:00

NCAA Women's Final Four Recap: Vanderbilt Tops Georgia Tech & Stanford Defeats Duke

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We started with 64 teams and now we're down to the final 2 after SEC Champion Vanderbilt and Pac-12 Champion Stanford advanced to Tuesday's NCAA championship match. Vanderbilt will be making its third appearance in the final (2015/2001) and will be seeking its second championship after pulling away late to defeat Georgia Tech 4-2. 

Vanderbilt got off to a quick start in doubles and went up early breaks at No. 1 and No. 2 while Georgia Tech took the early lead at No. 3. Vandy's No. 2 team of Emma Kurtz and Emily Smith jumped out to a 2-0* lead and would add one more break, via a double fault on the deciding point, to defeat Ida Jarlskog ad Victoria Flores 6-3. 

Vandy's No. 3 team of Christina Rosca and Amanda Meyer improved to 19-2 in dual-match by coming back from an early 0-2 deficit to defeat Johnnise Renaud and Nami Otsuka. Rosca and Meyer reeled off three straight games after dropping the first two but Renaud and Otsuka would break back and hold for 4-3. Rosca and Meyer then took the next three games, with the last one coming down to a deciding point, to win 6-4.

Rosca and Meyer's win extended Vanderbilt's doubles winning streak to 15 with the Commodores now 23-7 on the season in doubles play. 

Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech would split first sets in singles with most of them pretty lopsided. 

Vanderbilt senior Astra Sharma was the first off the court with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Paige Hourigan at No. 1. Sharma won the first nine games of the match until Hourigan broke and held for 2-3. Sharma held serve the rest of the way and added a break at love to close out the match. Sharma has now won 12 of her last 13 matches. 

Georgia Tech sophomore Nami Otsuka put the Yellow Jackets on the board with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Emma Kurtz at No. 5. Kurtz went up *2-0 to start the second set but Otsuka won the next five to put it out reach. 

Vandy senior Fernanda Contreras made it 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kenya Jones at No. 2. Contreras jumped out to a 5-1* lead in the opening set before Jones held, broke, and held to pull within 5-4. Contreras served out the set from 40/15 to take it 6-4. The second set stayed on serve until Contreras broke on the deciding point for 4-3 and then a few games later she'd close it out with a hold on the deciding point. 

Georgia Tech freshman Ida Jarlskog won her 13th straight match to cut Vandy's lead to 3-2. Jarlskog took the opening set over Amanda Meyer 6-2 and then she broke for 2-1 in the second. Jarlskog broke again to go up 5-2 but Meyer broke back and held for 5-4. Jarlskog would then serve it out from 40/15 to make the final 6-2, 6-4. 

Georgia Tech senior Johnnise Renaud had a chance to tie it up when she served for the match not once, but twice at No. 3 against Vandy sophomore Christina Rosca. With Renaud serving up a set and 5-4, Rosca would break from 30/40 to even it at 5-5. Renaud broke back to go up 6-5 but Rosca fought off a match point to break on the deciding point and force a tiebreak. Renaud fought off a set point at 5-6 in the tiebreak but Rosca took the next two points to take it 8-6. Rosca broke Renaud to start the third set and then came back from 15/40 down to hold for 2-0. Rosca broke on the deciding point for 3-0 and then held on the deciding point for 4-0. After an exchange of holds, Renaud fought off two match points to hold for 2-5 and then she fought off another to break for 3-5 but Rosca would then serve it out at love to win it 2-6, 7-6, 6-3. 

The other match went unfinished with Vanderbilt junior Summer Dvorak serving up 5-2 (30/30) in the third against Victoria Flores. 

Post-Match Quotes

Vanderbilt head coach Geoff Macdonald
Opening statement…
“First of all, throughout that match I was made aware how extraordinary of a team Georgia Tech is. We pride ourselves on fight, and so do they. They are incredible competitors. It was a classy match, really fair and good sportsmanship. I have the highest regard for them. It was a very nervous match, playing for such high stakes. I thought what Christina Rosca did today was extraordinary. All three of these players (Rosca, Astra Sharma, and Fernanda Contreras) are just amazing, and are great students. I’m immensely proud to be their coach.”

On the National Championship match…
“Stanford’s No. 2 player was out with an injury, and everybody knew that when she came back that they were a top-four team. The committee were in a tough spot, because they have to go by record, but everybody knew how good they were. We beat them in January, but it was a completely different match, because they are adding a player. I love our team and we will be ready to play.”

Vanderbilt Christina Rosca, No. 3 doubles and No. 3 singles
On the clinching match…
“It was a really good match. She (Johnnies Renaud) hits the ball so well. She is the type of player I usually struggle against, so I just tried to hang around and make the match hard for her. I ended up pulling it out at the end.”

Vanderbilt Astra Sharma, No. 1 doubles and No. 1 singles
On reaching the championship final in her senior year after winning as a freshman…
“At the end of the day, we try to look at it like it’s just another match. We try to look at it like we have nothing to lose and everything to gain, since we’ve had such a good year. We’ve talked about how much we believe in each other and the toughness. Today, just watching Christina (Rosca) and Summer (Dvorak) you just know that they are going to lay it out on the line. They have so much heart and it is really cool to see their hard work pay off. That is the reoccurring theme this whole season. The championship match is just one more match for us to show everybody how hard we’ve worked on the court and how great of a group we are.”

Georgia Tech Head Coach Rodney Harmon
Opening Statement:
“First off, I want to thank the NCAA committee and Wake Forest for doing such a wonderful job running the event. It’s been great to be here. They’ve made everyone feel really welcome, so we’ve really enjoyed our time here. I want to thank them first, because it’s never easy. I want to thank the volunteers as well.”

“For us, I feel like it was an amazing tournament. Many people didn’t feel like we would get out of the first round. Pepperdine is really, really good, and we had lost to them earlier this year at National Indoors. The team fought really hard and won a really tough match. Obviously, the match the other night against UCLA was a long, tough match.”

“Today, we weren’t able to have enough comebacks. Vanderbilt is a great team. They’re well-coached and they played extremely well. They outplayed us in doubles and their 1-2 punch at the top is very tough with (Astra) Sharma and (Fernanda) Contreras. They were able to get over the finish line at a coupe other spots and win the match. We fought as hard as we could fight. I’m really proud of my team. I thought our effort each day was very, very good. We were happy to be here. We realized the stakes when you come to a tournament like this and we put forth our best effort. We came up a little bit short
today, but I’m just really proud of our effort”

#2 [1] Vanderbilt 4, #4 Georgia Tech 2
Head Coaches: Geoff Macdonald (VANDERBILT) and Rodney Harmon (GEORGIA TECH)
Doubles competition
1. #11 Astra Sharma/Fernanda Contreras (VU) vs. #1 Paige Hourigan/Kenya Jones (GT) 5-5, unf.
2. #69 Emma Kurtz/Emily Smith (VU) def. #48 Ida Jarlskog/Victoria Flores (GT) 6-3
3. Christina Rosca/Amanda Meyer (VU) def. Johnnise Renaud/Nami Otsuka (GT) 6-4
Singles competition
1. #11 Astra Sharma (VU) def. #14 Paige Hourigan (GT) 6-0, 6-3
2. #10 Fernanda Contreras (VU) def. #60 Kenya Jones (GT) 6-4, 6-4
3. #44 Christina Rosca (VU) def. Johnnise Renaud (GT) 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-1
4 #125 Ida Jarlskog (GT) def. Amanda Meyer (VU) 6-2, 6-4
5. Nami Otsuka (GT) def. Emma Kurtz (VU) 6-1, 6-3
6. Summer Dvorak (VU) vs. Victoria Flores (GT) 6-2, 5-7, 5-2, unf.
Match Notes
Vanderbilt 27-3; National ranking #2
Georgia Tech 25-6; National ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles: (2,3) Singles (1,5,2,4,3) 


Stanford advanced to its third straight NCAA final, 26th overall, after defeating No. 3 Duke 4-2. The Cardinal dropped the doubles point for only the fifth time all season but they didn't go down without a massive fight. Duke's Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin won a top 10 showdown over Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon at No. 1 doubles. McCarthy and Hamlin broke serve to go up 4-2 and then after two holds they'd have a 6-3 win. 

Duke jumped out to 3-0* leads on both of the other two courts and it'd looked like they had the doubles point all but wrapped up but closing those courts out would be a different story.

Stanford's Caroline Lampl and Kimberly Yee reeled off five straight games to go ahead 5-3 at No. 2 doubles and they'd go on to defeat #6 Kelly Chen and Samantha Harris 6-4.

Duke's Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao had a commanding 5-1 lead at No. 3 but Stanford's Melissa Lord and Janice Shin won the next four, including a comeback from 0/40 down, to even it at 5-5. Lord and Shin had a pair of break points to go up 6-5 but Chi and Zhao got the hold and then they broke at love to win it 7-5. 

Duke and Stanford would split opening sets in singles but the first three matches to finish would all to the Cardinal.  

Stanford sophomore Emma Higuchi won her 16th match in a row with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Hannah Zhao at No. 6. Higuchi jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set but she'd need to break on the deciding point to close out the set 6-4. 

Stanford freshman Janice Shin won her 10th match in a row to give Stanford its first lead at 2-1. Shin put on a dominating performance and snapped Ellyse Hamlin's 11-match winning streak in the process with a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 5. 

Stanford junior Melissa Lord won her 6th match in a row to put the Cardinal a point away from a spot in the finals. Lord defeated Meible Chi 6-2, 7-6 at No. 2 singles with the score in the second set tiebreak 7-0. 

Despite trailing 3-1, Duke still had set leads on the other three courts but Stanford was about to force a third set on two of them.  The only match that Duke would win in straight sets came at No. 1 where senior Samantha Harris closed freshman Michaela Gordon 6-2, 7-6(3).

By the time Harris got the win at No. 1, Stanford junior Caroline Lampl had already opened up a 3-1 lead in the third set against junior Kaitlyn McCarthy and she'd eventually extend that lead to 5-1. McCarthy fought off a match point to break Lampl on the deciding point for 2-5 but Lampl would break back from 15/40 to close it out.

The other match at No. 4 went unfinished with Stanford sophomore Emily Arbuthnott up a break at 4-3 in the third against freshman Kelly Chen. 

Post-Match Quotes

Stanford head coach Lele Forood
Opening statement…
“It was a tough match today. We were a little overwhelmed in doubles, initially, but we fought back into it and came up just a little bit short. This year, however, losing the doubles point has not faced us. We have a lot of faith in our singles lineup, so we just tried to move on as quickly as possible, knowing that we needed to find four singles wins. We started pretty well in singles, and we got a bunch of first sets. Especially at No. 5 and No. 6, that set the tone. It was very helpful to get those two points on the board, and then Mellissa (Lord) following on No. 2. We lost a tight one on No. 1. Then obviously No. 3 and No. 4 were in third sets. Caroline (Lampl) was fortunate enough to get hers first.”

On playing for the National Championship…
“We played Vanderbilt in one of the first matches of the season at their place. At that time, it was preseason more or less and they built it as the No. 1 vs. the No. 2, because that’s where we were in the rankings. They smacked us pretty good. So we are really excited to be back and have the chance to play them at the end of the season.”

Stanford Caroline Lampl, No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles
On losing the set and responding to clinch…
“Kaitylin (McCarthy of Duke), first of all is a great player. I knew going into the match that it was going to be a battle no matter what. She just won her doubles match, so I knew she had a lot of confidence going into singles. I started out playing well. It went one-all, two-all, then she just dominated the rest of the first set from there. She played really well. She had a lot of winners on me and was playing very aggressive. It was overwhelming at times, so I have to give it to her. It turned around in the second set when I decided I was going to fight out there and I was going to be a warrior. And that’s what I did. I tried to get every single ball back, and she started making more errors as I did that, which definitely helped me. I was putting more elevation and top spin on my balls too, which helped me get shots to move up on and have opportunities. I just fought out there and gave it my all, which is what I love to do for this team. It just means so much to me.”

On being a leader on the team that has won a previous championship…
“Definitely, there is a lot of leadership involved in that. We want to be good role models on and off the court, and show to our team what it means to play for the National Championship and be in the final. That is giving it your all not just for yourself, but for the team and what Stanford University means to us, which is a lot.”

Duke Head Coach Jamie Ashworth
Opening Statement...,,
Nothing really fazes them. The conditions don’t faze them. They are so mentally tough. I mean losing the doubles point on their side doesn’t faze them. It was a great effort on their part. I thought after doubles we could take some momentum, and we have done a very good job this year after the doubles point of coming out and winning a quick singles match and we just weren’t able to do that. 5 and 6 we just got in a hole there. We definitely battled and competed, and I am really really proud of the season we had. Having it here at Wake is a great thing for us. A couple of years ago when I saw it was going to be here it was something as a program we were excited about. About the possibility of playing a match like today close to home. It is a great thing for our program.

“I just told the girls, if you look at where we were 365 days ago, not just on the court but off the court, I think our program is in a really good place right now,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We had a good win over UNC to win the ACC regular season title, which means a lot to our program, especially with how tough our conference is. We came into this thing that we had a great opportunity to advance and to possibly win it. There are four teams playing today that are all playing really good tennis. As a whole, I think our program is in a great spot. This is where we want to be.”

“I thought after the doubles, we could take some momentum,” Ashworth said. “We’ve done a really great job this year of after the doubles point, winning a quick singles match and we weren’t able to do that. Five and six just got into a hole there. We definitely battled and competed. I’m really proud of the season we had.”

Jamie Ashworth's full post-match interview is available at this link

#15 Stanford 4, #3 Duke 2
Head Coaches: Jamie Ashworth (DUKE) and Lele Forood (STANFORD)
Doubles competition
1. #9 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) def. #3 Emily Arbuthnott/Michaela Gordon (STANFORD) 6-3
2. #84 Caroline Lampl/Kimberly Yee (STANFORD) def. #6 Kelly Chen/Samantha Harris (DUKE) 6-4
3. Meible Chi/Hannah Zhao (DUKE) def. Melissa Lord/Janice Shin (STANFORD) 7-5
Singles competition
1. #6 Samantha Harris (DUKE) def. #15 Michaela Gordon (STANFORD) 6-2, 7-6(3)
2. #40 Melissa Lord (STANFORD) def. #55 Meible Chi (DUKE) 6-2, 7-6(0)
3. #93 Caroline Lampl (STANFORD) def. #116 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DUKE) 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
4. #28 Kelly Chen (DUKE) vs. #43 Emily Arbuthnott (STANFORD) 6-4, 3-6, 3-4*, unf.
5. #96 Janice Shin (STANFORD) def. #84 Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) 6-1, 6-1
6. #102 Emma Higuchi (STANFORD) def. Hannah Zhao (DUKE) 6-4, 6-0
Match Notes
Stanford 23-3; National ranking #15
Duke 27-4; National ranking #3
Order of finish: Doubles: (1,2,3) Singles (6,5,2,1)


Read 1028 times Last modified on Tuesday, 22 May 2018 06:40

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