Day One of 2012 ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship Features High Drama
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Day one of the 2012 ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar’s Head Sports Club is in the books. It was a day full of tense, competitive matches, as three seeds went down in defeat.
No. 1 seed Duke easily took the doubles point from Ole Miss, seemingly on its way to cruising to a win in the first round. Although Ester Goldfeld delivered a straight-sets victory at the second position, the Rebels took charge on three courts, showing they were not going away easily. Ole Miss took the next two matches to even the score at 2-2, but Blue Devil freshman Beatrice Capra defeated Rebel senior Kristi Boxx at the first spot to put Duke back in front 3-2. With Ole Miss needing to win the final two matches to pull off the upset, Caroline Rohde-Moe kept her team alive with a 6-3, 6-4 victory when Duke’s Hanna Mar framed a forehand down match point.
The focus turned to the match-up at the sixth spot, where the Blue Devils’ Annie Mulholland and the Rebels’ Vivian Vlaar were locked in a tight second set. Vlaar, who clinched both Ole Miss wins during ITA Kick-Off Weekend in three sets, looked to pull through for her team in dramatic fashion once again. Vlaar dropped the first set, and she found herself serving to stay in the match trailing 5-4 in the second, which she did successfully. Vlaar then broke Mulholland for a 6-5 lead, but failed to serve out the set. The Rebel sophomore took a quick 5-0 lead in the tiebreak and pounced on a short serve at 6-2 to win the set. The decisive set was a roller coaster of emotion, with Vlaar continuing to hit out, but struggling with consistency. Mulholland claimed an early break for a 3-1 lead, but Vlaar hung tough, holding serve in a game that featured double-digit deuces, following that hold up with a break. But just when it appeared Vlaar had regained momentum, Mulholland raised her level of play as Vlaar let her play drop. Mulholland claimed the final three games of the match to propel the Blue Devils on to the 4-3 victory.
“We gutted out this win,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth stated. “We were fortunate to win. Our three freshmen gave us three wins in singles, which was encouraging because we weren’t sure how they were going to perform here. Now that we have a match under our belts, hopefully we come out and play better tomorrow.”
The other match at 9 am featured the No. 8 seed Michigan against Clemson. Just as Duke did, the Wolverines were able to take the doubles point quickly. Michigan raced out to leads in five of the six singles matches, looking to advance with as little trouble as possible against the Tigers. Michigan’s Emina Bektas put her team ahead 2-0 with a straight sets victory at the first singles spot, which was followed shortly thereafter by Mimi Nguyen’s win at the third position. The Wolverines completed the 4-0 sweep over Clemson when Sarah Lee put away the Tigers’ Nelly Ciolkowski 6-1, 6-0 at the fourth spot. Duke and Michigan will face off at Noon ET on Saturday.
“We worked really hard on doubles this week,” Michigan head coach Ronni Bernstein said. “We actually changed some teams around, but they played really well together even though it may have been someone they haven’t played with very much. This is a great win for us. Clemson is a good team.”
The two Noon matches followed a similar script to the 9 am matches, with one seeded team struggling to advance, while the other managed to move through with a 4-0 sweep.
No. 4 seed Georgia was the team locked in a tight contest, as the Texas Longhorns were looking to pull off the first upset of the tournament. Texas battled hard in doubles, holding a big lead at the first position and hanging in the other two matches, but it was the Bulldogs who won the doubles point for a 1-0 lead. Texas responded well in singles play, taking the first set in four of the six matches, including an impressive 6-0 triumph by Aeriel Ellis over Chelsey Gullickson at the first spot. Each team took a quick straight sets win, making the score 2-1 in favor of Georgia.
The Bulldogs’ Lauren Herring put her team ahead 3-1 with a 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory over Noel Scott, but the remaining three matches would go deep into a third set. Ellis kept the Longhorns alive, bouncing back from dropping the second set against Gullickson to return to her first set form to win the match 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. The final two matches seemed to be even early in the third set, but Georgia took control at the first opportunity. While Maho Kowase was battling to serve out the victory at the fourth position, Nadja Gilchrist was slowly pulling away from Krista Damico. Kowase and Cierra Gaytan-Leach played a titanic game at 5-2, as Gaytan-Leach held seven break points, but failed to convert each time. Kowase also let two match points slip away, but managed to rush the net on her third match point and stick a backhand volley into the open court for the clinching victory.
“Texas was very impressive right from the start,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace explained. “They came out on fire in singles. The match at No. 6 is the only one we had in our favor early. They were really strong, but this is a fighting team. They did a great job of that today, just fighting and finding ways to get into matches. For us, every match is a new match. This is a great event, and you have to come out ready to play every match. I am just very proud of our players.”
The Cal Golden Bears, seeded No. 5, received a stiff test from the Miami Hurricanes in doubles play. Cal took the match at the first spot easily 8-1, but Miami responded with an 8-5 win at the third spot. The match at the second position was tight throughout, but the Golden Bears clawed their way to an 8-5 victory to go ahead 1-0.
While the top of Cal’s lineup was locked in tight matches across the board, the bottom of the lineup was racing out to big leads right away. Cecilia Estlander turned in a 6-1, 6-1 win at the sixth position, followed by Annie Goransson’s 6-1, 6-4 score line, giving the Bears a 3-0 lead. The players at the top three spots continued to keep their matches close, but Cal’s Anett Schutting was able to put away Liat Zimmerman 6-2, 6-2 at the fifth position to clinch the 4-0 sweep. Cal and Georgia are set to play at Noon ET on Saturday.
“The first match is always tough here, with us having to travel across the country,” Cal head coach Amanda Augustus said. “We also really never play indoors. Everyone was on court for a while today, so that was good for them. We are just taking things one match at a time here.”
While the first four matches provided a couple of almost upsets, the evening matches more than delivered. No. 3 seed Baylor and No. 6 seed North Carolina were involved in very different matches, but both suffered the same fate.
Baylor was up against the Tennessee Lady Vols, a team that always features outstanding doubles play. This match was no different, as Tennessee took the first and second positions to claim the doubles point in commanding fashion. The Bears were looking to work their way back into the match with a strong start in singles, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Lady Vols won the first set on four of the six courts, putting Baylor in a huge hole.
Tennessee refused to let up in the four matches they had taken control of, staking sizeable leads in the second sets as well. With Caitlyn Williams and Kata Szekely delivering straight-set victories, it was a race to the finish between Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti. Boren was able to get it done moments before Toti, beating Baylor’s Nina Secerbegovic 6-0, 6-3 at the second spot to advance the Lady Vols.
“We played good doubles today. It is an important point, but we won it against them last year, so we knew we had to come out and play just as well in singles. The freshmen were the question marks coming in for us, but they played well. We weren’t sure how they were going to do in their first match here. We knew the matches at No. 1 and No. 2 were going to be tough. We have played indoors a lot more than they have this season, and we have played a very strong schedule. I am really proud of our kids.”
In the match between North Carolina and USC, the doubles point should have been an indication of just how tight the overall match was going to be. Each team took one doubles match with relative ease, making the third spot the deciding match. USC’s Valeria Pulido and Zoe Scandalis appeared in control against Tessa Lyons and Haley Hemm, leading 7-5 and looking to clinch the point for the Women of Troy. The Tar Heel duo had other ideas, battling back to 7-7. The match was decided in a tense tiebreak, with Lyons and Hemm able to produce solid play at the net to take it 10 points to eight.
With USC taking the first set in five of six singles matches, it seemed the missed opportunity in doubles was forgotten. Easy wins by Kaitlyn Christian at the fourth spot and Gabrielle DeSimone at the fifth position put the Women of Troy ahead 2-1. Sabrina Santamaria posted a 6-2, 7-5 win next, moving USC ahead 3-1. Lyons came up big once again for North Carolina, coming through with a three-set victory to keep the Tar Heels alive. The final two matches were being contested at the two top singles spots. While both matches went late in the third set, they could not have been more opposite.
At the first spot, Scandalis and McHale continued to fight their way through tough service games. At the second position, USC’s Danielle Lao and North Carolina’s Zoe De Bruycker struggled to hold serve. It appeared Scandalis was going to provide the clinching win for the Women of Troy, continually chasing down McHale’s shots until she finally broke down McHale’s game to take a 4-3 lead. She served for the match at 5-4 after McHale saved match points on her own serve, but could not seal the victory for her team. On the next court, Lao finally managed a hold, putting all of the pressure on De Bruycker as she served to stay in the match at 5-4. Lao cut out the errors she was making earlier in the set, and De Bruycker was not able to power her way through Lao down the stretch. A De Bruycker backhand in the net ended the thrilling match and gave USC the 4-2 triumph. The Women of Troy will play Tennessee at 3:30 pm ET on Saturday.
“It was definitely a struggle,” Lao explained. “I was up 4-1 in the first set and lost it. Then I was down in the second set but was able to fight back. In the third set, it was all about who could keep her nerve. We were both really tight in the third set. She played really well, and I was able to hit a few good shots at the right time. The match really came down to a few points, and I was really fortunate to get those points.”
The final two matches of the day saw two ACC teams take the doubles point, only to fall short in singles play.
No. 7 seed and host school Virginia came out strong in doubles play, rallying around the tremendous crowd support to put away Northwestern and take a 1-0 lead. Each team won three first sets in singles, but it was Northwestern who was able to produce a few straight-set victories to seize the momentum and quiet the Cavalier crowd. Veronica Corning, Nida Hamilton, and Brittany Wowchuk were all able to handle their opponents in two sets, giving the Wildcats a 3-1 lead. Virginia’s Emily Fraser kept her team’s hopes alive of making a comeback, but Linda Abu Mushrefova quickly changed that. Mushrefova dropped the opening set to Erin Vierra, but won the second 6-2. Vierra was not able to challenge Mushrefova in the third, as the Wildcat won the set going away 6-0.
“UVA is a good doubles team,” Northwestern head coach Claire Pollard stated. “I thought they just outserved us. The bad thing about this season is we have lost a lot of doubles points, but the good thing is we know how to play singles after having lost the doubles point. We gave a tremendous effort in singles. We just kept coming at them and coming at them all night. We had good road experiences last weekend at North Carolina and Duke. I thought the Virginia fans were very classy and showed great sportsmanship. I thought it was a good, fun environment for our team to play in.”
While the home crowd was being silenced, the tournament’s No. 2 seed was on the ropes against Georgia Tech. UCLA was stunned by the Yellow Jackets in doubles, surprisingly falling in an early 1-0 hole. The Bruins were down 2-0 when freshman Robin Anderson produced a 6-4, 6-4 victory at the first position. It would be quite some time before the next match was completed, and until that moment UCLA had still not pulled away from Georgia Tech.
The Bruins’ Chanelle Van Nguyen got through a marathon two set match, evening the overall score at 2-2. The final three matches were in decisive third sets, and all had slowly turned in favor of UCLA in a half hour time frame. Kaitlin Ray was next to finish for the Bruins, bouncing back from dropping the opening set to Lynn Blau to put her team one match away from clinching. It looked as if freshman Skylar Morton would provide that clinching win, but teammate Pamela Montez beat her to the punch. Morton squandered a break lead late in the third set, but Montez was determined to close out her match against Christina Ngo. After nailing a service winner to start the game, Montez let her big forehand do the rest of the work, claiming the final three points with forehands deep in the court that Ngo could not handle. UCLA and Northwestern will face off at 3:30 pm ET on Saturday.
“I think we underestimated Georgia Tech’s doubles a little,” UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster stated. “They came out with a lot of emotion. They made a lot of volleys and they played really aggressive, which caught us off guard a little. It is good to know we can lose the doubles point against a team of this quality and still win the match. The freshmen came out a little nervous in singles, but they eventually put it together. I think Georgia Tech got a little nervous at the end as well. This was a very good experience for the freshmen, especially with the match coming down to the very end. Each player did what they needed to do for us to win this match. I thought we were the more talented team, but Georgia Tech had more discipline tonight. That is something we need to work on, having more discipline in the way we play.”
Play continues on Friday at 9 am ET. For an updated draw, click here.