NCAA Championships: Duke women, Georgia and USC men spring Round-of-16 upsets
The quarterfinal stage is set for the 2021 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tennis team events, after two days of play at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
The women’s Round of 16 was held on Sunday, with each result going according to the seeding until Duke ended the night with the day’s lone upset. Playing against the hometown University of Central Florida, the unseeded Blue Devils advanced in a 4-3 thriller to set up a quarterfinal showdown with rivals North Carolina, the undefeated top seeds.
Monday’s men’s Round of 16 brought the drama early, with No. 3 seeds Tennessee and No. 11 Georgia opening play with a pair of 4-3 victories before defending champions Texas fought back from a 0-3 hole to edge South Carolina.
UNC-Duke highlights ACC-filled women’s quarters
The top seven women’s seeds are all safely through to the final eight, with none dropping more than two points in the Round of 16. The quarterfinal draw, from top to bottom, is as follows: No. 1 UNC vs. Duke, No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 5 Pepperdine, No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 NC State, and No. 2 Texas vs. No. 7 FSU.
The ACC represents half of the quarterfinal lineup in UNC, Duke, NC State and FSU.
No. 1 North Carolina continued its perfect progress through the tournament with a third straight 4-0 victory, this time over Pac-12 champions Cal, while No. 4 UCLA (def. Georgia Tech) and No. 5 Pepperdine (def. Michigan) also notched shutout wins in the top half of the women’s bracket. The Bruins and Waves will meet in the quarters for the right to face the winner of the highly anticipated UNC-Duke matchup.
The cross-town Carolina rivals previously met on March 17, with UNC taking a 6-1 victory as the Blue Devils were without No. 2 singles player Georgia Drummy.
Against UCF, Duke’s four winning points came from doubles and Courts 2-4 in singles play, with sophomore Chloe Beck (Watkinsville, Ga.) clinching the win at the No. 3 spot. The Blue Devils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but ultimately needed Beck’s come-from-behind, three-set victory to advance by the slimmest of margins.
Duke entered the tournament at No. 18 in the ITA Rankings—missing out on one of the 16 NCAA seeds—and 14th in the Tennis Channel/USTA poll. But their recent play, and the program’s pedigree as 2019 NCAA semifinalists, makes them a credible threat to end the Tar Heels’ 47-match win streak.
Duke coach Jamie Ashworth said his team has “nothing to lose” in the rematch, and attributed their relatively low ranking to a slew of injuries throughout the spring season.
“I think you throw the rankings out a little bit,” he said following their Round-of-16 win. “We didn’t play a complete season like we normally would. A lot of teams didn’t. I said all along, if we can play with a lot of fight and a lot of character, I would put this team up against anybody.”
With UCF falling to Duke, Florida State is the lone representative of the Sunshine State in the women’s quarters. The No. 7 seeds defeated No. 10 Texas A&M, 4-2, by taking a tight doubles point and Courts 3-5 in singles play.
“It was intense,” said FSU coach Jennifer Hyde. “We knew it was going to be a battle and I think when you’ve got 7 vs. 10, every match is going to be a battle. I’m really proud of the girls.”
Georgia, USC spring upsets to reach men’s quarters
The drama started early in the men’s Round of 16, and by day’s end, the quarterfinal draw shook out as follows, from top to bottom: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Georgia, No. 4 Texas vs. No. 12 USC, and No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 7 TCU.
The 11th-seeded Georgia Bulldogs upset 2019 semifinalists and No. 6 seeds North Carolina when graduate transfer Billy Rowe (Coronado, Calif.) took out Josh Peck at the decisive fourth singles spot. After a slow start to the spring season and some early injuries, coach Manny Diaz has his team peaking at the right time.
“We have been talking so much about one of Manny’s [Diaz] 90’s teams that was the No. 10 or 11 seed and ended up winning the whole tournament,” said Rowe. “Man, he’s just been giving us so many thoughts about how we can win this whole thing and just inspiring us every day to the point where we believe we can win the entire thing. Our guys just played inspired today, and they lifted me to the finish line there.”
In his 33rd season as the UGA head coach, Diaz has amassed over 700 wins, setting the SEC record held by his Georgia predecessor, Dan McGill. He’s now three wins away from claiming his fifth NCAA title with Georgia, with the previous two coming in back-to-back years, 2007-08.
Southern California made it two double-digit seeds in the final eight with a 4-2 victory over fifth seed Virginia, clinched by Stefan Dostanic (Irvine, Calif.).
“We know that we have very good players, and we know that we belong here,” said the sophomore. “We are a very confident team. Even though we may not be the highest seed, we know that we can beat anyone on any given day.”
While USC was fighting on Courts 7-12 at the Campus, Texas was fighting for their tournament lives and their title defense on Courts 1-6. From 0-3 down, the Longhorns leveled the match when Eliot Spizzirri (Greenwich, Conn,) won a three-setter on Court 1. That set up Evin McDonald (Bethesda, Md.) to clinch victory with a three-set win of his own,7-5 in the third at the No. 6 spot.
I know it’s a cliché, but we’ve been in this situation so many times,” said coach Bruce Berque. “I think this is probably our seventh or eighth 4-3 match that came down to the wire, and we’ve lost one of them. So it’s been pretty incredible.
“These guys are confident when they get in that situation, with their backs against the wall, that they still have a chance. That was the absolute key. I still don’t know how we exactly did it, down 3-0, but just for now I’m grateful. I’m proud of the guys that got it done.”
The women’s quarters will be played on Wednesday from 11 a.m. ET, with the men to follow on Thursday. Friday will see the semis in both draws, with the title matches set for Saturday. Both Tennis Channel and the TennisONE app will have live coverage throughout the week. Visit the NCAA Championships homepage on USTANationalCampus.com for full tune-in information.