The 2017-18 season may have just finished up but that doesn't mean we have to wait until September to start the new season. The ITA Kick-Off Weekend Draft will be held on Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. ET with the men making their selections on Wednesday while the women pick on Thursday. The final ITA team rankings determine the 15 regional hosts plus they determine the order of selection for everyone else. The National Team Indoor Championship host gets an automatic bid so the Washington women and Illinois men get the free pass.
The biggest news is that the Stanford women will participate in the KOW for the first time since 2011. In the past Stanford has been able to skip the event and still work its way up into the top 16, which guaranteed itself a spot as a NCAA regional host, but with the new super regional format kicking in next year it'll take a ranking in the top 8 to be able to play at home until reaching the NCAA Final Site.
There was one top 16 school that decided to skip the draft and it was the Texas Tech women which finished the year ranked No. 9. Other women's schools that decided to take a pass were Texas A&M, Rice, Virginia Tech, USC, Boston College, Alabama, Hawaii, Notre Dame, Louisville, and Georgia State.
The highest ranked men's school to pass in advance was No. 23 South Carolina with Harvard, Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn, South Florida, and Georgia State the others to opt out. There are several others that may opt out on the day of the draft depending on what spots are available.
The 2017-18 college tennis season officially came to a close today with a few historic firsts in the finals of the singles and doubles championships. Ole Miss senior Arianne Hartono won the school's first NCAA Women's Singles Championship with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Pepperdine sophomore No. 17 Ashley Lahey in a match that was played indoors due to rain. Hartono, who finished the regular season ranked No. 7 and was seeded No. 6, defeated Pepperdine's top three in the final three matches with the other wins coming over No. 22 Mayar Sherif 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(2) in the semifinals and No. 27 Luisa Stefani 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Hartono also had wins over Georgia Tech's No. 14 Paige Hourigan, Washington's No. 47 Vanessa Wong, and Oklahoma State's No. 20 Vladica Babic.
Ole Miss's only other NCAA Singles Championship came in 2009 when current men's assistant Devin Britton won the title as a freshman.
For the first time in three years both the women's and men's finals were played outdoors and for all those in attendance they were treated to a pair of good matches that culminated with Stanford winning its 19th NCAA Women's National Championship while Wake Forest won its first-ever NCAA Men's National Championship.
For the third time in the last four matches, Stanford spotted its opponent the opening point after Vanderbilt took the doubles point for the 24th time in 31 matches with wins at No. 1 and No. 2. Vandy's No. 1 team of Astra Sharma and Fernanda Contreras picked up a no-ad break to go ahead 2-1 and then they'd add one more break to close out a 6-3 win over the ITA No. 3 ranked team of Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon.
Stanford's No. 3 team of Melissa Lord and Janice Shin broke Vandy's Christina Rosca and Amanda Meyer to start the match and several games later they'd break again to go ahead 5-2. Rosca and Meyer broke back and held for 4-5 but Stanford served it out to win 6-4.
Seconds later Vanderbilt's No. 2 team of Emma Kurtz and Emily Smith would close out their match to give VU the doubles point. The match started off with back-to-back breaks and then Caroline Lampl and Kimberly Yee held on the deciding point for 2-1. Lampl and Yee would then get a no-ad break to go up 3-1 but Kurtz and Smith came storming back and took the next four games to go in front 5-3. Lampl and Yee held for 4-5 but Kurtz and Smith served it out from 40/30 to win 6-4.
Stanford put the doubles point in its rear-view mirror and went to work in singles and would claim five opening sets.
Championship Tuesday has arrived!! The women's final will start things off at 1 p.m. while the men's final will get started no earlier than 5 p.m. Stanford will be seeking its 19th NCAA Championship while Vanderbilt attempts to win its second. In the men's final both Wake Forest and Ohio State are seeking their first national championship with this being Wake first-ever appearance in the finals while Ohio State was there once before in 2009
The NCAA will have a live broadcast available on NCAA.com so head to this link at match time to listen to the broadcast. I believe that the regular live stream will also be available through Wake's host site however the live scoring is usually a point ahead of the stream and frankly the stream itself isn't the great but at least it's something (Update: Wake does not have its regular live stream so it's only available through the NCAA)
If you are a fan of college tennis and didn't enjoy the two men's semifinal matches that were played on Monday evening then you need to go see a doctor. Both matches had it all, from the multiple weather delays due to lightning and rain, to the back and forth swings that came with each time they restarted play, and wow how about that doubles point in the Ohio State/UCLA match. It was an unbelievable night that kept me up past 2 a.m. here in London but it was worth every second.
So let's start out with the match on lower courts between No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Ohio State. The Bruins served first to start the matches at No. 1 and No. 2 but quickly went down a break on No. 1 and trailed 3-1. UCLA's Martin Redlicki and Evan Zhu would trail 4-2 at No. 1 but Redlicki would hold on the deciding point for 3-4, they'd break JJ Wolf for 4-4, and then Zhu held on the deciding point for 5-4. Ohio State's Martin Joyce held for 5-5, Redlicki held for 6-5, and then Redlicki and Zhu broke Wolf again to win it 7-5.
Next door at No. 2 dubs, UCLA's Austin Rapp and Keegan Smith opened up a 4-1 lead over John McNally and Mikael Torpegaard. McNally and Torpegaard took the next three to tie it at 4-4 and then they had a pair of break points on Smith's serve but Smith managed to hold for 5-4. After three more holds the match would head to a tiebreak.
On the other court at No. 3, UCLA's Maxime Cressy and Bryce Pereira broke on the deciding point for 3-2 and they'd eventually extend the lead to 5-3. Cressy and Pereira had a match point when Ohio State served at 3-5, but Matt Mendez and Hunter Tubert fought it off to hold for 4-5. Cressy then had a pair of match points at 40/30 but Mendez and Tubert broke on the deciding point to even it at 5-5. Cressy and Pereira would break back to go up 6-5 but once again they'd be unable to serve it out with Mendez and Tubert breaking back to force a tiebreak.
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.
Just four men's and women's teams remain as we head into the second to last day of the dual-match season. The women's semifinals will kickoff the day at 10 a.m. and both matches should be able to be played outdoors however the men's matches scheduled for 2 p.m. may not be as fortunate. The forecast currently shows a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms starting around 2 p.m. and staying around for most of the day so hopefully the other 50% with no rain is what we get.
On the women's side, Vanderbilt is appearing in its fourth consecutive NCAA semifinal and will be seeking its third appearance in the championship match while Georgia Tech is trying to get back to the championship match for the first time since it won it all in 2007. Stanford will be attempting to reach the championship match for the 26th time while Duke will be seeking its third championship appearance with its last coming in 2009 which also happened to be the only time the Blue Devils won it all.
On the men's side, both Wake Forest and Texas A&M are first-time semifinalists so whoever wins that match will be making its first championship appearance. UCLA has made it to the championship match 12 times with its most recent appearance in 2013 while Ohio State will try to get back for the second time in school history with its only previous appearance coming in 2009 when it lost to USC.
For the first time since play began on Thursday all matches would start and finish outdoors and the fans in attendance were treated to one good match after another. Pac-12 Champion UCLA defeated its crosstown rival USC for the fourth time this season with the doubles point being the difference. Big Ten Champion Ohio State came back from 2-0 down to defeat SEC Champion Mississippi State 4-3. In the All-SEC quarterfinal it was Texas A&M edging Florida 4-3 and in the match that the locals packed the house for Wake Forest shutout Illinois 4-0.
The semifinal matches, which will be played at the same time, have been moved up from 4 p.m. eastern tomorrow to 2 p.m. eastern since there is a chance of rain later in the day. Wake Forest and Texas A&M, which will be playing for the first time in 10 years, will play on the main stadium courts while UCLA and Ohio State, which played back in February, will play on the back six courts. If you're watching from home the live stream and scoring setup is much better on the back six courts but if you are there in person then the best sight-lines are on the stadium courts.
After two days of rain the skies finally cleared up some on Saturday which allowed for 2 1/2 of the 4 women's quarterfinal matches to be played outdoors. The first three matches were pretty uneventful, except for a coach getting ejected in the Duke/Texas Tech match, however the nightcap between Georgia Tech and UCLA lived up to its billing.
Georgia Tech played late into the night on Thursday in a 4-3 thriller against Pepperdine but the Jackets were ready for another showdown against a west coast on Saturday. The match began outdoors but midway through singles rain forced a 75 minute delay and then 10 minutes after play resumed it started raining against which ultimately forced the match indoors 30 minutes later.
UCLA won the doubles point for the 24th time in 29 matches with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-4 win at No. 3. The Bruins jumped out to early break leads on both courts and despite Georgia Tech getting it back on serve at No. 3 at 4-4 the UCLA duo of Alaina Miller and Ena Shibahara would break back and then serve it out for their 19th consecutive win.
Georgia Tech had dropped the doubles point against Pepperdine as well so they knew they could overcome it but it wouldn't be easy.
The first pair of men's quarterfinal matches was originally set for noon eastern on Sunday but with rain expected later in the day the NCAA has adjusted the schedule and moved the two early matches up to 10 a.m. with the later two pushed up from 4 p.m. to 2 p.m. Three of the four matches will be rematches from the regular season with the Ohio State/Mississippi State match the only one that will be a first time meeting.
UCLA, USC, and Ohio State have been frequent visitors to the semifinals over the last 20 years while Illinois (2007), Florida (2005), and Mississippi State (1998) will be trying to get back to the promised land for the first time in a decade plus. Wake Forest and Texas A&M have never been to the semifinals but there's a good chance that will change in less than 24 hours.
Down below I have each team's path to the quarterfinals, any notable streaks, regular season meeting box scores, singles/doubles lineups with UTR, and my crazy predictions at the end.