Southern Cal advanced to the semifinals with a 4-2 victory over Stanford.
© C.B. Schmelter/Georgia Sports Communications
By Chris Starrs, special to USTA.com
ATHENS, Ga. -- No. 5 Southern California's dramatic 4-2 victory over No. 4 Stanford highlighted Saturday's quarterfinals of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships on a day that saw a quartet of Pac-12 powers squaring off against each other for the chance to play for the 2012 national title.
The Women of Troy (24-3) defeated the Lady Cardinal (21-2) in the NCAAs for the first time since 1983 and did so in compelling fashion, with Danielle Lao besting Mallory Burdette, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 2 singles some 30 seconds before Sabrina Santamaria beat Stacey Tan in a riveting tiebreaker, 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (5), for the clincher at No. 3.
"When it came down to the crunch... there was no margin for error," said USC coach Richard Gallien. "The best part of my day was the looks on their faces when the match got closer to the end. There was no look of panic or distress. It was just, 'Let's go play some more tennis.' It would not have been possible if the girls didn't ante up."
"It was a great battle," said Stanford coach Lele Forood, whose team lost to Florida in last year's NCAA finals. "It was kind of an amazing match. I don't think anybody really knew the outcome until it really ended. It was just a pretty amazing rollercoaster."
USC's victory avenged its 4-2 loss to Stanford earlier this season, but more importantly, it enabled the Women of Troy to advance to Monday's semifinals, where they'll meet their SoCal neighbors, No. 1 UCLA, which advanced with a 4-1 win over No. 9 California.
Although Tan and Ellen Tsay took an 8-5 victory over Valeria Pulido and Zoe Scandalis at No. 2 to begin doubles play, USC battled back to earn the doubles point when Kaitlyn Christian and Santamaria beat Burdette and Nicole Gibbs 8-6 at No. 1 and Lao and Alison Ramos topped Kristie Ahn and Veronica Li 8-6 at No. 3.
Gibbs' 6-1, 6-4 win over Scandalis at No. 1 evened things at 1-1, and USC's Gabriella DeSimone put the Women of Troy back on top with a 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Tsay at No. 5. Stanford's Veronica Li recorded the equalizer with a 6-4, 7-5 triumph over Pulido at No. 6, setting the stage for USC's electrifying finish.
USC will meet a familiar foe in UCLA, which wasted little time in dispatching California from the proceedings. The Lady Bruins earned the doubles point, with McCall Jones and Carling Seguso defeating Tayler Davis and Cecilia Estlander 8-4 at No. 3 and Dourtney Dolehide and Pamela Montez beating Annie Goransson and Anett Schutting 8-4 at No. 2.
"Our team came really ready to play; they were very focused," said UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster. "We set the tone early in doubles, and that got everyone to relax. The energy was really, really high. We knew their team, and they knew our team. We made some adjustments and executed really well today."
In singles, Skylar Morton made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Davis at No. 4, and California tallied its only point of the day at No. 2, when Zsofi Susanyi defeated Jones, 6-2, 6-1. UCLA then shut the lid on the match, when Seguso -- substituting for Kaitlin Ray -- beat Alice Duranteau, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 6, and Montez posted the clincher with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Schutting.
UCLA and USC have met three times this season, with the Lady Bruins winning the first two matches and the Women of Troy winning 6-1 a month ago.
The coaches whose teams meet Monday had mixed feelings about being bunched together in this year's quarterfinals.
"It's unfortunate," said Sampras Webster. "We play each other so much during the regular season that it would be nice to play someone that doesn't really know us. We play each other so much -- we just want to play someone else. It would be nice to see how we do against somebody like North Carolina and get a chance to play someone different."
"If you get to the quarterfinals of the NCAAs, certainly there's a good chance you'll run into a conference opponent," added Gallien. "I would say the draw for the NCAAs overall, in not playing conference opponents in the second round, has made it a much better championship. I guess it's the luck of the numbers that the 1, 5, 4 and 9 (seeds) happened to (be California teams), so, therefore, there we all are. I didn't give too much thought about it. I guess it just guarantees a team from our conference will be in the finals."
California ends its season at 20-7, and Stanford closes out the year at 21-2.
NO. 2 FLORIDA 4, NO. 10 MIAMI 0
After having to wait nearly two hours for the deciding doubles game to conclude, the Lady Gators then quickly quelled the Hurricanes, winning the first sets at all six positions and taking the match less than 30 minutes later.
Florida's Alex Cercone and Caroline Hitimana defeated Anna Bartenstein and Brittany Dubins 8-6 at No. 3 to clinch the doubles point in a game that had 18 points to get to 7-6 and another 14 points to get to the finale.
"Winning the doubles point was huge," said Florida coach Roland Thornqvist. "It really quieted down the Miami players. I thought we were the better team on all six singles courts, so I wasn't terribly afraid that losing the doubles point would let the match slip out of our hands. However, it makes a big difference when we can come through with great courage like we did at 3 doubles to win it. It certainly felt like that set the tone in the beginning of singles."
Showing no ill effects from her elongated doubles effort, Cercone proceeded to capture the Florida's first singles point with a quick 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Liat Zimmerman at No. 5.
"I tried to play a consistent tennis game and hit the balls deep in the corners," said Cercone. "My opponent wasn't extremely consistent, so I just tried to make one more ball, one more ball, and if I got the opportunity to be aggressive, I would do so. I tried to have a good first-serve percentage."
Olivia Janowicz followed 20 minutes later with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Dubins at No. 6, and about a minute later, Joanna Mather provided the clincher with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Lina Lineikite at No. 3. It was the 12th match clincher of Mather's career.
Florida (25-1) will face Duke at 1 p.m. Monday in the semifinals. Miami ends its season at 21-5.
NO. 3 DUKE 4, NO. 6 GEORGIA 2
Although the Lady Blue Devils lost the doubles point for the second time in the tournament, they advanced to the semifinals for the first time in two years by defeating the host Lady Bulldogs before a large and vocal pro-Georgia crowd.
"Obviously, it was a great match," said Duke coach Jamie Ashworth, whose team won its 18th consecutive match on Saturday. "To play Georgia here in the NCAA tournament was a great opportunity and experience... I talked with (Southern California men's coach) Peter Smith, and he told me it's like a rite of passage to win an NCAA tournament match against Georgia here. I kept thinking about that all day. We just played a hell of a match in singles. I thought we played good in doubles, too. We just kept fighting and fighting. I couldn't be prouder of the group of girls we have."
Kate Fuller and Nadja Gilchrist got Georgia on the right track in doubles with an 8-1 win over Mary Clayton and Ester Goldfeld at No. 1. Duke's Beatrice Capra and Rachel Kahan then defeated Chelsey Gullickson and Lauren Herring 8-6, before Lilly Kimbell and Maho Kowase clinched the point with an 8-6 win over Monica Gorny and Hanna Mar.
Goldfield was able to make it 1-1 with her 6-2, 7-5 win over Gilchrist at No. 2 singles, before Gullickson put the Lady Bulldogs back in the driver's seat with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Capra at No. 1, bringing the freshman's 16-game winning streak to an end.
The Lady Blue Devils (29-2) then went up 3-2, when Monica Turewicz bested Kimbell, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, at No. 6 singles and Mar downed Kowase, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, at No. 3.
Kahan then delivered the clincher in an exciting three-set 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5) win over Herring.
"We just go one point at a time," said Kahan of the tiebreaker. "It's just like any other point. I just tried to play each point to the best of my ability. That's the only thing you can do."
Duke will face Florida at 1 p.m. Monday in the semifinals. Georgia's season ends at 24-5.
No. 1 Southern California vs. No. 8 Duke, noon
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 4 UCLA, noon
No. 3 Virginia vs. No. 11 Stanford, 4 p.m.
No. 7 Pepperdine vs. No. 2 Georgia, 4 p.m.