By Chris Starrs, special to USTA.com
ATHENS, Ga. – Top-ranked UCLA began its quest for a national title in grand style Thursday with a rapid 4-0 victory over unseeded Rice in the round of 16 at the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The Lady Bruins (24-2) quickly won the doubles point, as McCall Jones and Carling Seguso dispatched Rice’s Kim Anicete and Stephanie Nguyen 8-2 at No. 3, and Courtney Dolehide and Pamela Montez downed Katie Gater and Ana Guzman 8-3 at No. 2.
"We knew that this is the NCAAs, and for a lot of my team, it’s their first trip playing here, so at the beginning of doubles, we started a little slow at 2 and 3, but we did a good job competing," said UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster. "The energy was good, and we set the tone early. We knew Rice was going to fight, so we wanted to play tennis like we’ve been playing all season."
In singles, Seguso put UCLA up 2-0 with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Nguyen, and Jones made it 3-0 with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Dominique Harmath.
"I wanted to make sure I finished," quipped Jones. "I’ve played so many of my matches where I thought I’d win, and then I’d never get to finish. I knew I had to finish because my teammates are all so good that they’ll finish before me, and I won’t get a win. So I wanted to win early for my confidence."
UCLA’s No. 1 singles player, Robin Anderson, got off to a good start in her match against Natalie Beazant, winning the first set 6-0, but she struggled in the second set, falling behind 3-1 before clinching the match with a 6-4 victory.
"(Beazant) was really making Robin play, and it’s hard to maintain that high level," said Webster. "She missed a few volleys coming forward and may have played a little conservative. But she worked through it and started playing more aggressive and started executing. And once she starts executing, Robin is such a great player that it’s hard to beat her because she’s hitting big corners and big serves."
The Lady Bruins will face fellow Pac-12 entrant California, which defeated Georgia Tech early Thursday afternoon, at noon on Saturday in the quarterfinals. The two teams have met twice this year, with UCLA winning 4-3 in February in Los Angeles and Cal winning 4-3 in April in Berkeley.
Rice, which upset No. 16 Ole Miss to advance to Athens, completes its season with an 18-9 record.
NO. 9 CALIFORNIA 4, GEORGIA TECH 0
The No. 9 Golden Bears (20-6) had little trouble with unranked Georgia Tech, winning the doubles point with an 8-3 victory at No. 1 and an 8-4 triumph at No. 2.
Zsofi Susannyi collected Cal’s first singles victory, besting Georgia Tech’s Caroline Lilley, 6-3, 6-0, and Anett Schutting moved the Golden Bears one game closer to the Elite Eight with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Elizabeth Kilborn at No. 3.
No. 1 singles player Jana Juricova closed out the match with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Jillian O’Neal.
"This tournament is always tough," said California coach Amanda Augustus. "We prepare all year for this, and we just have to take it one day at a time. I was happy with the way we played. For us to have Jana happy is a big asset for us."
"California today was just a little bit better than us," said Georgia Tech coach Bryan Shelton. "They’re very strong, especially at the top of their lineup. After we lost the doubles point, it was too much of a mountain for us to climb in the singles."
Cal will face No. 1 UCLA at noon on Saturday in the quarterfinals. Georgia Tech, which qualified for the round of 16 with a 4-3 upset over No. 8 Alabama, finishes its season at 16-12.
NO. 4 STANFORD 4, NO. 13 NORTHWESTERN 1
Stanford’s Stacey Tan defeated Northwestern’s Brittany Wowchuck, 6-0, 7-6 (5), at No. 3 singles to quell a potential Lady Wildcat uprising and place the Cardinal in the quarterfinals.
With the doubles point in hand, Stanford found itself in a battle in every singles spot except for No. 4, where Ellen Tsay defeated Veronica Corning, 6-1, 6-2, to post the Cardinal’s second point.
Playing at No. 1 singles, Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs defeated Kate Turvy, 7-5, 6-3, to give the Cardinal a 3-0 advantage, but Northwestern’s Linda Abu Mushrefova downed Veronica Li, 6-4, 6-3, for the Lady Wildcats’ first and only point.
The unfinished matches – at No. 2 and No. 6 singles – were both in the third set when Stanford clinched.
"The key to victory is just persevering and staying with it," said Stanford coach Lele Forood. "We obviously came out (and) got the doubles point, won a lot of first sets. And then they do what they do, which is they don’t go away. It was a good battle."
Northwestern finishes it season at 20-9.
NO. 5 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 4, No. 12 BAYLOR 1
Baylor’s Jordaan Sanford defeated Southern California’s Gabriella DeSimone, 6-1, 6-0, for the Lady Bears’ only point, as the Women of Troy improved to 23-3 and advanced to the quarterfinals and a Saturday date with Stanford.
Southern California took the doubles point, as Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria beat Megan Horter and Nina Secerbegovic 8-4 at No. 1, and Danielle Lao and Alison Ramos won 8-5 at No. 3.
The Women of Troy’s singles victors were Pulido at No. 6, Santamaria at No. 3 and Scandalis at No. 1.
"I loved the fight," said Scandalis. "The NCAAs are totally different from the regular season. Everyone’s willing to kill themselves to win."
Baylor’s season ends at 25-8.
NO. 4 GEORGIA 4, NO. 11 TEXAS 0
Georgia (24-4) needed less than 45 minutes to take the doubles point and was finding speedy success in singles – winning the first set at all six positions – when the skies opened, forcing a 58-minute rain delay that eventually drove the match indoors.
Once inside, the Lady Bulldogs once again made quick work of Texas, as Nadja Gilchrist defeated Krista Damico, 6-4, 6-2, at No. 2 singles, Lauren Herring beat Noel Scott, 6-3, 6-3, at No. 4 singles, and Maho Kowase clinched the match for Georgia with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Lina Padegimaite.
"I thought that we did a good job going indoors," said Georgia coach Jeff Wallace. "We were hoping it would clear up and we could stay out and play, but we went indoors, and our players put their game faces on. We were able to keep the momentum and get it done."
Georgia will meet Duke at 4 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals. Texas ends its season at 19-8.
NO. 3 DUKE 4, NO. 14 VIRGINIA 1
In a match that ended almost seven hours after it started, Duke advanced to the quarterfinals, when Monica Turewicz defeated Caryssa Peretz, 6-3, 7-6 (3), at No. 6 singles for the clincher.
The two Atlantic Coast Conference teams were thwarted by a long rain delay that also required time to get the courts back in shape for play.
The Lady Blue Devils (28-2) lost the doubles point but received their other singles victories from Rachel Kahan at No. 4, Beatrice Capra at No. 1 and May Clayton at No. 5.
"I thought that we didn’t play very good doubles," said Duke coach Jamie Ashworth. "Things that went wrong shouldn’t be going wrong in the third week of May for us. But I thought our team believing after we lost the doubles match (was key). Our team has so much belief in their singles play."
Duke will meet Georgia at 4 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals. Virginia ends its season at 20-8.
NO. 2 FLORIDA 4, NO. 15 MICHIGAN 0
The Lady Gators were not at their best in winning the doubles point, but efficient singles play helped launch the defending national champions into the quarterfinals.
A late afternoon rain delayed the match between Florida and Michigan by more than two hours, and the match began with an upset, as the Lady Wolverines’ Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender defeated Allie Will and Sofie Oyen – the No. 1 doubles team in the country – by an 8-5 score.
The Lady Gators bounced back to take the doubles point and had little trouble in singles, as Olivia Janowicz won, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 6, Lauren Embree won, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 2, and Oyen clinched the match at No. 4 with a 6-1, 6-3 victory.
"I thought the singles matches were outstanding," said Florida coach Roland Thornqvist. "On courts 4, 5 and 6, we were about as good as we played all year, and that comes out at a great time. We’re moving well, we’re playing smart, we can handle ups and downs, and we handle mistakes well."
Florida (24-1) will face Miami at 4 p.m. Saturday. Michigan ends its season at 21-8.
NO. 10 MIAMI 4, NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA
Just a few minutes before 1:30 a.m. Friday, Miami's Melissa Bolivar defeated Gina Suarez Malaguti, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, to clinch the Lady Hurricanes’ victory.
In addition to winning the doubles points, Miami got singles victories from Anna Bartenstein at No. 1 and Brittany Dubins at No. 6.
Miami (21-4) will play Florida at 4 p.m. on Saturday. North Carolina ends its season at 24-6.