2023 NCAA Championships: UNC downs defending champs Texas in women's QFs
After all the Division II and III team trophies were won at this historic, combined NCAA Championships, the final stages of the Division I event began Wednesday evening with women's quarterfinal action at the USTA National Campus.
The marquee matchup saw the top-seeded University of North Carolina defeat two-time defending champions Texas, 4-2, with No. 4 seeds Georgia, No. 7 Stanford and No. 3 North Carolina State also advancing. UNC will face Georgia in Friday's semis, with Stanford to meet NC State for the first meeting between the two programs.
North Carolina, seeking its first national title in women's tennis, is through to the Final Four for the third straight season and the fourth time in the past five years.
Against Texas, the Tar Heels battled back after dropping the doubles point with straight-sets singles wins at No. 1, 3, 5 and 6 to secure the win. On Court 6, IT No. 38 Anika Yarlagadda clinched the overall match with a 6-4, 6-3 result against Malaika Rapolu.
"It feels great," UNC head coach Brian Kalbas said after his team ended the Longhorns' reign atop D1 women's tennis. "[Texas head coach] Howard [Joffe] does an amazing job. They've won two national titles in a row. They're peaking at the right time, they always do. And they were playing well.
"Losing the doubles point was big but it wasn't the decider for us. We came out with the same kind of energy we did against Florida [in the Sweet 16] and played with some really good purpose and won some close first sets and a couple of sets in the second could have gone a different direction... When you lose the doubles point, you can't give up momentum at any point in time and to not allow those matches to go three sets was huge for us."
Junior and ITA No. 1 Fiona Crawley, who scored a 6-1, 7-5 win against Charlotte Chavatipon at No. 2 singles, was proud of how her team dug in after falling behind 1-0 after doubles and 2-1 after the first two singles results.
"Coach’s favorite line is ‘Gritty, not pretty.’ And I feel like we really stayed true to that, especially after singles where we just lock in," she said. "We have a huddle and we come together and play together."
The Tar Heels will meet Georgia next after the Bulldogs swept Michigan, 4-0.
Wednesday's most dramatic match was the last to finish under the lights. North Carolina State's thrilling matchup with first-time quarterfinalists and 11th seeds Iowa State came down to No. 3 singles with the overall score knotted at 3-3.
The Wolfpack are led by Diana Shnaider, who broke into the WTA's Top 100 earlier this year as she spread her time between the pro and college levels. Shnaider scored a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles, but the match came down to Amelia Rajecki for NC State.
Rajecki, the ITA No. 26, fell behind early in the final set against the unranked Miska Kadleckova. But behind her power game and relentless energy, she surged through the finish line to earn a 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 victory.
"I think it's the highlight of my college career so far," said the junior from Great Britain. "We have had some tough 4-3 matches this year, especially last year as well, and been on the flip side. I know how hard it is and I'm just so thankful that we got through this.
"It shows how far our team has come, especially from the start [of the season] when we lost to Vanderbilt 4-3 in the kickoff to now. I think with how much we've grown and just how much everyone's learned—I'm really proud of everyone."
Through to their second NCAA semifinal, NC State will meet Stanford for the first time on Friday for a place in the title match. Stanford, seeking a record-extending 21st NCAA women's tennis title, advanced to the Final Four with a 4-0 sweep of Texas A&M.
For more information, including tickets, draws and schedule, visit the USTA's NCAA Championships homepage. For all the latest news from the Division I, II and III tournaments, visit USTA.com's news landing page for the event.