Host Schools Hold Serve During 2012 ITA Kick-Off Weekend
Monday marked the conclusion of the 2012 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, and it was mostly the host teams that managed to survive. The top seeds on the men’s side almost made it a clean sweep, as 14 of the 15 won both matches on the weekend to move on; the women’s No. 1 seeds only had slightly more trouble, with 12 of the 15 able to advance.
The top 10 men’s teams in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings made quick work of most of their matches, as only two teams dropped multiple points. No. 6 Stanford knocked off No. 50 Santa Clara and No. 64 Saint Mary’s in Palo Alto by the score of 6-1, while No. 8 Baylor had to outlast No. 42 Florida State 4-3 after cruising past No. 60 New Mexico State 7-0 in Waco. No. 12 Pepperdine, No. 13 Cal, and No. 17 Texas also won both matches with ease, not surrendering a single point to any of their opponents.
The remaining three hosts found themselves facing uphill battles over the weekend. While No. 11 Texas A&M and No. 24 Tennessee were able to overcome adversity, No. 19 Georgia Tech fell victim to one of the toughest sites on the men’s side. With four teams ranked between No. 15 and No. 20 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis rankings all facing off in Atlanta, there was no clear favorite. Sunday featured two “upsets” with No. 18 North Carolina beating No. 15 Illinois 4-2, while No. 20 Auburn defeated the host Yellow Jackets 4-1. The Tigers and Tar Heels battled in the championship match, with No. 4 seed Auburn emerging victorious by a 4-1 margin for its first trip to the ITA Men’s National Team Indoor Championship in school history.
Texas A&M worked its way to a 6-1 win over No. 72 Purdue in its first match, but found itself locked in a tense battle with No. 14 Mississippi State in the championship match. The Bulldogs struck first by taking the doubles point, and then extended their lead to 2-0 thanks to George Coupland, ranked No. 32 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, winning in straight sets at the fifth singles spot. The Aggies took the next two completed singles matches in straight sets to even the score at 2-2, but Mississippi State surged back ahead 3-2 thanks to a three-set win from No. 45 Louis Cant.
After splitting two lopsided sets, Texas A&M’s No. 73 Jeremy Efferding and the Bulldogs’ No. 90 Malte Stropp needed a tiebreak to decide the final set. The outcome appeared bleak for the Aggies with Stropp leading 6-4, just needing one more point to deliver the clinching victory, but Efferding fought back and managed to take the final four points of the match to keep Texas A&M alive. The deciding match also went deep into the third set, as the Aggies’ Colin Hoover and Mississippi State’s No. 79 James Chaudry struggled to hold serve. The Texas A&M senior was finally able to serve out the victory at 6-5, after failing to do so at 5-4, and the Aggies remain in the hunt for the ITA Men’s National Team Indoor Championship title.
No. 24 Tennessee experienced a much tougher test than most expected from No. 53 Michigan State in its opening match, eventually getting past the Spartans 4-2. Familiar SEC foe No. 23 Ole Miss was the opponent the next day, and it was the battle that everyone expected. The Vols claimed the doubles point and held a 2-1 lead after a couple of quick singles matches completed. The Rebels turned the match in their favor quickly, taking the matches at the fifth and sixth singles positions for a 3-2 lead overall. Tennessee needed a pair of three set victories from two players ranked in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, and that is exactly what they got. No. 125 Mikelis Libietis defeated Ole Miss’ Nik Scholtz 6-3 in the third set, while in the only match between two ranked players, No. 119 Hunter Reese defeated No. 98 Jonas Lutjen 6-3 to send Tennessee to Charlottesville.
It was mostly smooth sailing for the top women’s teams in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, with the Michigan Wolverines receiving the only scare on the weekend, but it was quite a scare. No. 35 Yale had already beaten No. 21 Notre Dame and was anything but intimidated by the prospect of having to upset a top 10 team on the road in the championship match.
A 7-1 tiebreak victory at the third doubles spot put the upset-minded Bulldogs ahead 1-0, and things were not looking up for the Wolverines when Yale took control at the bottom three positions in the singles lineup. The Bulldogs breezed through straight-set victories at the fifth and sixth singles spots, putting them just one match away from the major upset. But Michigan was quick to battle back with three straight-set victories of its own, turning all attention to a second set tiebreak at the second singles position. The Wolverines’ No. 46 Brooke Bolender won the first set easily 6-3, but Yale’s Blair Seideman fought to stay in the second. Bolender was able to race out to an early lead in the tiebreak, taking it seven points to two for the clinching win.
Michigan’s fellow Big Ten member No. 12 Northwestern also found itself in an unexpected battle with No. 39 Nebraska, the newest member of the Big Ten, in the championship match. The Cornhuskers took the doubles point with a 9-7 victory at the first doubles position, putting the Wildcats in an early hole. Northwestern seemed to have gotten on track early in singles, winning all six first sets, but the match was far from over. After claiming wins at the third and fifth spots, the Wildcats lost three-set stunners at the second and fourth positions to fall behind in the match 3-2. Northwestern’s No. 26 Kate Turvy was able to claw out a couple of tiebreak victories over No. 50 Mary Weatherholt to even the score at 3-3, turning all eyes to the third set on court six. The Wildcats’ Nida Hamilton was forced to regroup after losing a tough second set in a tiebreak. Hamilton showed her toughness by coming through for her team, delivering a convincing 6-1 final set triumph.
Four other Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings top 20 teams punched their tickets to Charlottesville with minimal resistance: No. 11 Miami, No. 13 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Clemson, and No. 19 Tennessee. The same can not be said for No. 17 Vanderbilt, No. 18 Florida State, and No. 20 Arizona State, as all three went down in defeat on their home courts.
While No. 15 Texas was the No. 2 seed in Nashville, the Longhorns came in as the highest-ranked team in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings to compete at the site that featured four top 30 teams. Texas was locked in a battle with No. 23 Alabama in its first match, getting a straight sets victory from Elizabeth Begley to propel the Longhorns to a 4-3 win. Surprisingly, the championship match against the host Commodores was a much easier affair, with Texas taking the doubles point and cruising through the singles to take the match 4-1.
The Seminoles ran into a hot Ole Miss team, which came into the weekend ranked No. 37 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings. The Rebels were out to improve on that ranking, doing so immediately with their 4-3 defeat of No. 29 Texas A&M in the first match. Not one to shy away from dramatics, Ole Miss once again found itself in a battle with the host team Florida State. The Rebels took the doubles point with relative ease, while straight-set victories from their top two players left them one point shy of the upset. The match ultimately came down to the sixth singles spot, where Ole Miss’ Vivian Vlaar rebounded from a tough opening set loss to take the second 7-5, using the momentum she gained to coast through the third 6-0 to send the Rebel Netters on to Charlottesville.
While the Sun Devils were the host team, it was actually No. 16 USC who entered the weekend with the highest ranking in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings of the teams competing in Tempe. The Women of Troy looked to be in top form in the first match, sweeping No. 48 Sacramento State 7-0, while Arizona State slugged its way past No. 45 Texas Tech 4-3. There was very little drama in the championship match, as USC claimed the doubles point quickly and came away with three quick singles victories for an insurmountable 4-0 lead. The remaining matches were played to completion, with the final margin being 6-1 in favor of the Women of Troy.
The 15 women’s and 15 men’s teams that emerged from the 2012 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, along with the Virginia women’s and men’s teams, now have their sights set on Charlottesville, where the Boar’s Head Sports Club will host the 2012 ITA Men’s and Women’s National Team Indoor Championships. The women’s Championship will take place Feb. 10-13, while the men’s event will be held Feb. 17-20.