The NCAA's Women's Final Four is set after a long day of tennis in Orlando with the first ball struck at noon eastern and the last celebration taking place just before midnight. The two late matches were the closer of the four with top seed Georgia coming back from a late 3-2 deficit to edge No. 8 Vanderbilt 4-3 while No. 5 Duke pulled off the mild upset over No. 4 South Carolina 4-1.
SEC rivals Georgia and Vanderbilt were meeting for the third time in the last three months and for the second time Vanderbilt would grab the early lead after an impressive performance in doubles.
Vanderbilt jumped out to break leads on all three courts but Georgia came back to tie all three at 3-3. VU's top team of Emma Kurtz and Emily Smith won the next three games to close out Lourdes Carle and Katarina Jokic 6-3 while Georgia's No. 3 team of Marta Gonzalez and Meg Kowalski won the next two and served for the match up 5-3. VU's Christina Rosca and Amanda Meyer broke back on 3 and were serving at 4-5 when teammates Fernanda Contreras and Georgia Drummy sealed the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 2 over previously unbeaten Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff (16-0 now 16-1).
Vanderbilt came out strong in singles and went up breaks on all but one court and would ultimately take four opening sets.
Despite going down an early break at No. 1 singles, Georgia sophomore Katarina Jokic would get it back on serve at 2-2 and then go on to win 10 of the next 13 games to defeat Georgia Drummy 6-3, 6-2 which tied the overall match at 1-1.
VU senior Fernanda Contreras put the Dores back in front with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 2 over Marta Gonzalez. Contreras had also defeated Gonzalez in straight sets in the final regular season meeting while Gonzalez lost for the third time against VU.
UGA sophomore Vivian Wolff tied it back up after winning her 19th straight match (23-1 in dual-match play) with a come from behind 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Amanda Meyer at No. 4 singles. Meyer had handed Wolff her only dual-match loss of the year back in February when the teams met at the National Team Indoors in Seattle.
Friday will be the start of the NCAA Women's Quarterfinals with the top 8 seeds making it to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2011. While the men have a day off between the quarters and semis the women will play three straight days which means fitness is going to be key with most of these matches expected to be hotly contested.
Five of the final eight have won a NCAA Championship with Stanford leading the way with 19 titles, Georgia and UCLA each having 2, while Vanderbilt and Duke have 1. Neither South Carolina or Pepperdine have ever advanced past the quarterfinal round while North Carolina will look to do so for just the third time in program history.
If looking at the UTR Power 6s, Georgia is the biggest favorite (+2.20) in the quarterfinals while No. 5 seed Duke is a favorite over No. 4 South Carolina with a UTR Power 6 of 1.01 point higher.
Slam.Tennis shows that Georgia and North Carolina are both prohibitive favorites, with an expected winning percentage of 96%, while Duke is the smallest favorite with a 56% expected winning percentage over South Carolina.
The USTA National Campus's website has all the links that you'll need to follow the championships so make sure you check out what they have to offer.
The first day of Super Regional play brought us a few good matches and a few shutouts but they all ended with the home team coming out on top. The two closest matches of the day took place on the West Coast with Stanford edging Big XII Champion Kansas 4-3 while Pepperdine fought off a scrappy UCF team 4-2.
Stanford won its 20th straight match and advanced to the Elite 8 for the 10th year in a row but it was far from easy. The Cardinal found themselves in a 1-0 hole after Kansas won the doubles point for the 25th time in 26 matches with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-3 win at No. 3.
Each team claimed three opening sets in singles with three of the matches finishing in straight sets while the other three went the distance.
Stanford seniors Melissa Lord and Caroline Lampl gave the Cardinal the lead at 2-1 after Lord won 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2 singles while Lampl stayed perfect in dual-match play (21-0) with a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 3.
Kansas's Maria Toran Ribes tied it at 2-2 with a 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 6 singles. Ribes's opponent Niluka Madurawe was playing in just her fifth dual-match of the season with Stanford's usual No. 6 Emma Higuchi out for unknown reason.
Stanford would go back in front after Emily Arbuthnott completed her comeback with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 4 singles but Kansas's Anastasia Rychagova knotted it up at 3-3 with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 1.
By the time Rychagova closed out Michaela Gordon at No. 1, Stanford's Janice Shin was nearing the finish line in the decider at No. 5. Shin dropped the opening set 6-4 but she'd come back to take the final two sets 6-4, 6-2 to send the Cardinal to Lake Nona where they'll meet No. 6 Pepperdine on Friday.
A trio of top 15 matches highlighted the mid-week slate with the TCU men, Pepperdine women, and Duke women all coming through with wins.
TCU earned a hard fought 4-3 win at home over No. 8 Texas A&M. The Horned Frogs won a pivotal doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and then each team took three opening sets in singles. Texas A&M's Valentin Vacherot tied it up with a straight set win at No. 3 but TCU made it 3-1 with a three-set win from Luc Fomba at No. 5 and a straight set win from Sander Jong at No. 6. Texas A&M's Barnaby Smith made it 3-2 with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 4 and Juan Carlos Aguilar tied it up with a 7-6, 7-5 win at No. 2. TCU senior Alex Rybakov won the decider on senior night with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 win over Hady Habib.
The big match during the week took place in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon as eighth-ranked UCLA hosted ninth-ranked Pepperdine. The Bruins struck first by taking the doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3 but Pepperdine quickly tied it up with a 6-0, 6-0 win by Anastasia Iamachkine at No. 6. UCLA retook the lead with a straight set win by Elysia Bolton at No. 2 but Pepperdine added straight set wins by Jessica Failla and Daria Kuczer at No. 3 and No. 4 to go in front 3-2. UCLA's Jada Hart tied the match at 3-3 with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 1 but Pepperdine's Dzina Milovanovic would win the decider at No. 5 singles 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
In men's action on Wednesday, No. 11 North Carolina defeated ACC rival No. 21 NC State 4-0. The Tar Heels took the doubles point and then added straight set wins in singles from William Blumberg, Brian Cernoch, and Bo Boyden at No. 1, No. 3, and No. 5.
New Mexico State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia named Emily Wang as the Aggies new women's head coach. Wang, who graduated from Illinois in 2007, had been the head coach at Eastern Illinois for the last two seasons posting a 28-17 (.622) record. Wang replaces Ivan Fernandez who left after seven seasons to take the women's head coaching job at UTEP. Below are some quotes from NMSU's release:
"Interest in our head women's tennis position was overwhelming," Moccia said. "Emily rose to the top during the process and I was glad we were able to recruit her to NM State. With her playing background in the Big 10 at Illinois and her returning Eastern Illinois to success they haven't seen in 25 years, I'm very confident she will do a tremendous job as our next head coach. I'd like to thank Erica Perkins Jasper, the ITA COO, for assisting me as well. Her knowledge of collegiate tennis coaches around the country was instrumental in our decision making."
"New Mexico State is a top-notch university, and I am excited to be part of the strong culture and part of the Aggie Athletics family," Wang said. "The women's tennis team has a lot of talent and potential. I'm excited to get on campus and look forward to a successful year."
Several players with college ties have roared into the quarterfinals at the USA F24 Futures in Champaign, Illinois. Recent Valparaiso graduate Jeffrey Schorsch picked up his first ATP point on Tuesday in a two-minute 1-0 retirement win over former Illinois No. 1 Farris Gosea. Schorsch added two more ATP points on Wednesday after he defeated another former Illinois No. 1 with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 win over Dennis Nevolo. Schorsch's next opponent will be the No. 3 seed Dominik Koepfer after the Tulane graduate defeated UCLA rising senior Martin Redlicki in the first round and American Alexios Halebian in the second round.
Harrison Adams started off the week in the qualifying draw but now the former Aggie has found himself in his third-career quarterfinal after defeating former Buckeye Hunter Callahan and the top seed Australia's Luke Saville. On Wednesday afternoon against Saville, Adams trailed 6-3, 4-2 but he rattled off five of the next six games to take the set 7-5. In the third set Adams trailed 5-3 but he won 16 of the final 21 points to close it out 3-6, 7-5, 7-5. Adams quarterfinal opponent will be ATP #935 Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace.
The 2017 NCAA women's semifinalists are now set and it'll be a pair of SEC superpowers, a newcomer from the Big Ten, and perennial powerhouse from the Pac-12. The day was supposed to begin at 10 a.m. ET but due to rain everyone was put in a holding pattern. After the skies opened up and it began to pour, the decision was made that North Carolina and Stanford would go indoors in Athens at 2 p.m while Ohio State and Texas Tech would be shipped to Atlanta with a 4 p.m. start (I went to Atlanta to follow the match). Both of the late matches were put on hold but due to the skies eventually clearing they would both be played outdoors starting just 30 minutes after the original 4 p.m. start time.
The longest match of the day took place between the No. 7 seed Stanford and the No. 2 seed North Carolina. A big reason for the length, 3 hours and 18 minutes, was because Georgia's indoor facility only has four courts and the other reason was because four of the six singles matches went three sets.
Stanford got off to great start in doubles and rolled to 6-1 wins at both No. 1 and No. 2 while North Carolina had a 5-1 lead at No. 3 in a match that went unfinished.
The late-afternoon and night sessions brought us the only 4-3 matches of the day as Pepperdine upset the hosts Georgia while last year's NCAA runner-up Oklahoma State took out the other local favorite Georgia Tech. The top seed Florida won a tough doubles point over Texas A&M but then pulled away in singles while the SEC Champs Vanderbilt came from behind to win the doubles point and then got it done in singles against California.
Photo by Bill Kallenberg (CapturedInAction.com)
Pepperdine was able to claim the all-important doubles point for the 22nd time in 28 matches after picking up wins on 1 and 3 while Georgia won at 2. The match at No. 1 doubles only saw one break of serve and it came when Pepperdine broke from 30/40 to go up 5-4. In the previous game Pepperdine got a huge no-ad hold when Christine Maddox hit a service winner and then two games later Mayar Sherif Ahmed served it out from 40/15 to win 6-4.
Thursday was a busy day in the SEC with eight teams in action since the conference is playing on Thursday and Saturday this week. Three of the four matches saw the road team pick up a win while No. 17 Kentucky was the only team to win at home. TCU finished off its West Coast trip with another win while just down the road UCLA knocked off Duke.