May 16, 2014
ATHENS, Ga.----The NCAA Championships were opened with an epic battle between the No. 2 seed Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 16 Notre Dame. After Alabama cruised to a 1-0 lead after clinching the doubles point with an 8-3 win at court three and an 8-4 win at court two. After sealing wins at Nos. 2 and 4 singles to open a 3-0 lead, Notre Dame displayed the fight associated with the institutions nickname as it battled back to pull the match score back to 3-2. Despite leading by a break on No. 6, the Irish were unable to hold on as Luicelena Perez surged back to a 6-1, 6-4 win to clinch the match and quarterfinal spot for Alabama.
Due to rain in the Athens area that extended into the morning, four teams hopped on buses and fought their way through Atlanta rush hour traffic to Georgia Tech’s Ken Byers Tennis Complex. The first match in Atlanta featured North Carolina running away with a 4-0 victory over Texas A&M. The Tar Heels gained the early advantage through winning the doubles point with wins on Nos. 2 (8-3) and 1 (8-7) despite dropping No. 3 (8-3). UNC was able to close out the sweep in singles as Whitney Kay (court four), Tessa Lyons (court 6) and Jamie Loeb (court one) ensured the Tar Heels would be travelling back to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
Number three seed Virginia moved into the quarterfinals with a hard fought 4-1 victory over No. 14 Baylor. The Cavaliers dominated doubles winning 8-4 at No. 3 and 8-5 at No. 1 to take the early advantage. That was pressed home as Julia Elbaba dispatched Kiah Generette 6-0, 6-1 on No. 1. Despite Blair Shankle pulling a point back for the Bears, Virginia closed out the match with wins by Stephanie Nauta and Danielle Collins on Nos. 3 and 2, respectively.
No.11 Stanford fought back from a 3-2 deficit to claim the first major upset of the tournament with a 4-3 victory over No. 6 California. Cal stood on the brink of victory as Maegan Manasse was one game away from closing out the match against Caroline Doyle. Doyle, however, battled back to stay in the game Stanford sealed their spot in the quarterfinals with a dramatic 4-3 victory.
Following in SEC regular season Champion Alabama’s footsteps, the SEC Tournament Champion and No. 1 overall seed Georgia Bulldogs produced a classic outside as they battled No. 16 USC to a 4-3 decision. The Bulldogs crucially took the doubles point before senior duo Lilly Kimball and Maho Kowase, on court Nos. 4 and 3 respectively, gave the hosts a 3-0 lead. The drama reached its zenith as, with the match tied 3-3, Lauren Herring and Zoe Scandalis battled to a third set tie-breaker. After initially swinging towards Scandalis, Herring battled back from 3-1 down to claim the tie-breaker 7-5.
Georgia will face fellow SEC school No. 8 Florida in the quarterfinals after the Gators defeated No.9 Vanderbilt 4-0 in the first match to take place on the McWhorter Courts. Florida swept to the doubles point as the team of Alexandra Cercone and Kourtney Keegan clinched the point after Brianna Morgan and Olivia Janowicz had won the first doubles match. Janowicz and Woolcock gave the Gators the 3-0 lead, setting the table for Morgan to clinch Florida’s spot in the quarterfinal draw.
In the final matches of the first day of the Tournament UCLA were able to down Miami 4-0 on the McWhorter Courts and Duke defeated Clemson 4-1 on the Henry Field Courts in matches that stretched into Friday morning.
No.5 UCLA was able to sustain a doubles loss to No.12 Miami to clinch the doubles point with wins at number two and three courts. Singles play allowed the Bruins to power to victory, clinching the quarterfinal spot with wins at numbers five, two and four courtesy of Catherine Harrison, Jennifer Brady and Chanelle Van Nguyen.
In the final match of the day No.4 Duke topped No.13 Clemson 4-1. The Blue Devils secured the doubles point courtesy of their number one pairing of Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar. After opening a 3-0 lead Clemson pulled a point back before Chalena Scholl clinched the match with a 7-6(4), 6-4 win at number four.
The NCAA Tennis Tournaments continue tomorrow with the men’s round of 16 matches.
Thursday’s Drop Shots
>>> A crowd of 1,310 attended the first day of the NCAA Championships in Athens, but two were special for junior Lauren Herring.
“I could not have done it without (the crowd),” she said. “Our crowd is amazing. It was really special because my grandparents are here. It was really cool.”
It was the first time her grandparents, visiting from North Carolina, had seen her play in Athens.
And she put on quite a performance for them by clinching the win and a trip into the Quarterfinals against SEC rival Florida on Saturday.
>>> Along the same lines, Southern Cal junior Zoe Scandalis said the crowd noise was hard to describe because it was so loud. Not only did the match last more than three and a half hours, but it was the only match going on across the six courts for more than an hour.
“It was insane. It was so loud and you have to put so much focus on what you’re doing. Everyone screams if you win a point or lose a point, and you have to keep your mind on the right track,” she said. “It’s a 6-all deciding match. Its something you dream about in your sleep, and then it’s actually happening. It was crazy.”
Scandalis will compete for the women’s singles and doubles individual championships next week.
>>>Both Virginia and Baylor have been seemingly unstoppable for the last two months. Since March 21, Virginia is 13-1 with its lone loss coming to Miami (Fla.) on April 20, while Baylor was a perfect 16-0.
“It prepares you very well,” said Virginia head coach Mark Guilbeau. “The smart thing is not to talk about that too much before the match.”
“Now I can share with my team about (how hot Baylor was), and we took it to them pretty good, with all respect to Baylor. I think it bodes well for our chances moving forward.”
>>>Something rare happened on the first day of competition - four matches occurred simultaneously.
Because the rain forced several matches to be moved indoors, just after 4 p.m. California and Stanford were midway through their match at the Byers Tennis Complex on the campus of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga., while Virginia and Baylor were in the process of finishing up their match at the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Facility in Athens. At the same time, UGA began its round of 16 match against Southern Cal on the Henry Feild Courts and Vanderbilt and Florida were playing on the McWhorter Courts.
>>>As matches ran into the night, temperatures dropped.
At midnight, when the two late matches between Miami and UCLA and Clemson and Duke were still in progress, the temperatures were in the mid-50’s. To put that into perspective, it was 94 in Pasadena, Calif., 75 degrees in Miami and 70 degrees in Durham, N.C at the same time.
“I wasn't even going to bring any long pants or anything, but I was glad I did,” said Duke freshman Chalena Scholl. “When you’re playing you don't really notice it as much, but in between points it got a little chilly.”
Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said that the weather should help with his team’s recovery as it prepares for Saturday’s match against UCLA.
“You have to be prepared for anything,” he said. “We talk all year about playing in the heat and humidity in Athens, and we come here and it's a non-factor.”