2023 NCAA Championships: Washburn topples APU as D2 women's event begins

Victoria Chiesa | May 12, 2023

The USTA National Campus didn't have to wait long for its first Cinderella story of the 2023 NCAA Championships. Twelveth-seeded Washburn University, out of Topeka, Kan., upset fifth seeds Azusa Pacific University 4-3 in Friday's Division II women's Round of 16—the first double-digit seed to win a match so far in Orlando.


The 'Bods top player Sonia Smagina, who played three seasons at Division I Kansas previously, went 2-0 across singles and doubles to help lead Washburn to the national quarterfinals for the first time in its history. After Smagina and her partner Maja Jung won 6-4 at top-flight doubles to help secure Washburn the doubles point, the second-ranked player in the nation beat Eleonora Liga, ranked sixth, in a Top 10-match at No. 1 singles, 6-4, 6-0.

But three-set victories for Casie Curry at No. 3 singles and Issabella Pensavalle at No. 6 singles—5-7, 6-1, 6-4 from a set behind—ultimately pushed Washburn to the upset.


Washburn will next face fourth seeds Flagler College, who blanked Wilminton (Del.) in their Round of 16 match.


"I couldn't be more proud of how our girls stayed in it and continued to fight," Washburn head coach Kirby Ronning said. "Azusa Pacific played a great match and kept pressure on us the whole way and I thought our girls did a good job of keeping their composure. I'm happy with how our girls competed and really happy [that we] get to keep the season going."


Washburn wasn't the only lower-seeded team to score a win on the first day of the women's Division II team tournament. Ninth seeds Cameron University, out of Lawton, Okla., beat No. 8 seeds Charleston (W.Va.), 4-2. 

Sonia Smagina. Photo by Conor Kvatek/USTA.

"It was everything an 8-9 seed match should be, tight matches and a lot of back-and-forth," Cameron head coach Josh Cobble said. "The bottom half of the lineup really played well for us today and got the win in singles. Doubles was important as always, and after an hour-long match at No. 1, I think it really pushed us into a strong position to win."

Top 4 seeds reach D2 men's semifinals

There was no such drama in the corresponding men's quarterfinals: The Top 4 seeds all advanced to Sunday's Division II semifinals with overall scores no closer than 4-1. 


One of those 4-1 victories was scored by fourth seeds Barry over fifth seeds Wayne State in a rematch of last year's national championship. After Barry lost the doubles point by losing at No. 1 and No. 3 (a tiebreak won by Joe Kelt and Dom Spicer ultimately decided things), the Bucs rebounded to sweep four completed singles matches to claim victory.

Alessandro Giuliato won 6-4, 6-2 at No. 3. Photo by Conor Kvatek/USTA.

Barry's No. 1 player, senior Alejandro Gallego, was a 6-2, 6-0 winner at the top spot to even the score at 1-1, and the Bucs never looked back from there. They were also leading in the third set of both matches at No. 4 and No. 5 singles when the match was clinched. 


"We knew we had to play well to advance," Barry head coach Thomas Hipp said. "We didn’t do as well as we wanted in the doubles, not taking advantage of leads and lost that point. However, the boys showed good morale and fought back in singles to win. That was impressive. I hope we keep up that mentality.”


To return to the title match, Barry, now 23-5 and winners of its last 10 matches, will have to beat No. 1 seed Valdosta State University, who advanced with a 4-1 win over ninth seeds Cameron. The Blazers were 4-3 winners when the two teams met on March 5.


No. 2 seeds Columbus State (Ga.) University and the No. 4-seeded University of Indianapolis will play in the other semifinal.

The Division II women will be back on the court on Saturday in the national quarterfinals, while the Division III men's quarterfinals will also be played. 


For more information, including tickets, draws and schedule, visit the USTA's NCAA Championships homepage.

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