ST. PETER, Minn. - The finals have been set for the eight teams competing in the 2011 ITA National Division III Women's Team Indoor Championship.
After four of the top five seeds advanced with quarterfinal victories in Friday's action, top-seeded Emory University and No. 2 University of Chicago notched early leads and never let up, recording semifinal victories over No. 5 Carnegie Mellon and No. 3 Denison, respectively, advancing to tomorrow's finals in a rematch from 2010's championship match.
The third-annual event returned to Gustavus Adolphus after hosting the inaugural championship just two years ago.
ITA Division III National Women's Team Indoor Championship: Finals
#1 Emory vs. No. 2 U. of Chicago
ITA Division III National Women's Team Indoor Championship: Semifinals
#1 Emory 7, #5 Carnegie Mellon 2
#2 U. of Chicago 7, #3 Denison 2
ITA Division III National Women's Team Indoor Championship: First Round
#1 Emory 8, #8 DePauw 1
#5 Carnegie Mellon 7, #4 Gustavus Adolphus 2
#3 Denison 6, #6 Washington & Lee 3
#2 U. of Chicago 8, #7 Chapman 1
More on the Finalists
#1 EMORY: Since arriving on Gustavus' campus, top-seeded Emory has looked primed to defend their title, with a possible rematch of last year's final waiting in the wings as the Eagles won the ITA Indoor Championship last season, defeating the University of Chicago 6-3 in the title match. But first, they had to face fifth-seeded Carnegie Mellon in a rematch from 2009, the first year of the annual tournament, in which Emory advanced to the championship match before losing to Carnegie, 6-3.
Emory's third doubles team, consisting of a pair of freshmen Malavika Padmanabhan and Brenna Kelly opened play with a dominating 8-1 victory over Cza-Ja Tam and Ashley Herrick to claim the first match point. In the second-doubles match, senior Lorne McManigle and junior Zahra Dawson, who are now playing together as one of the nation's top doubles teams for the past three years, edged Jennifer Chui and Alexandra Tapak 8-6, giving Emory a 2-0 lead.
"My doubles game has really improved since I've been at Emory", said McManigle. "I think Zahra and I are going to be very successful this spring. We've had two great seasons playing together and I think with more practice together we're going to get even better. She's a great partner, our styles of play are very different and I think they compliment each other well on the doubles court."
The Tartans would get on the board in the first-doubles match, as regionally fifth-ranked Layra Chen and Courtney Chin bested the Eagles' fabulous frosh Gabrielle Clark and rising sophomore Jordan Wylie, 8-4, to cut Emory's lead to 2-1 at the end of the doubles matches.
Moving into singles play, Emory received a quick victory from former NCAA Champion, McManigle in the third singles match, 6-0, 6-2. After freshman Taylor Brandt suffered a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Madison Rabson in the sixth-singles match, Clark, currently ranked third regionally in the Campbell/ITA Rankings, upset the Atlantic South Region's top-ranked singles player, Chen, in the first singles match 6-1, 6-4. Dawson clinched the team victory for the Eagles, winning her fourth singles match over Tam, 6-1, 6-1.
Adding victories to the Emory tally were Padmanabhan in the fifth singles match, 6-1, 6-1 over Chui, and No. 2 Wylie in a 6-3, 7-5 nationally-ranked premier match against Chin in the final match of the night.
First Round Matchup: No. 1 Emory 8, No. 8 DePauw 1
Semifinal Matchup: No. 1 Emory 7, No. 5 Carnegie Mellon 2
Finals Matchup: No. 1 Emory vs. No. 2 Chicago
1. Chen/Chin (CMU) def. Wylie/Clark (EU), 8-4
2. McManigle/Dawson (EU) def. Chui/Tapak (CMU), 8-6
3. Padmanabhan/Kelly (EU) def. Herrick/Tam (CMU), 8-1
Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1
1. Gabrielle Clark (EU) def. Laura Chen (CMU), 6-1, 6-4
2. Jordan Wylie (EU) def. Courtney Chin (CMU), 6-3, 7-5
3. Lorne McManigle (EU) def. Alexandra Tapak (CMU), 6-0, 6-2
4. Zahra Dawson (EU) def. Cze-Je Tam (CMU), 6-1, 6-1
5. Mavalik Padmanabhan (EU) def. Jennifer Chui (CMU), 6-1, 6-0
6. Madison Rabson (CMU) def. Taylor Brandt (EU), 6-4, 7-5
Order of Finish: 3, 6, 1, 4, 5, 2
#2 U. of CHICAGO: U of C, who is perennially one of the most competitive squads in doubles play, once again put on a clinic, capturing all three doubles points 8-4, 8-1, and 8-4 respectively. The Maroons have now claimed every doubles point on the year, except for one match at No. 3 doubles, that they dropped in a tie-breaker against Division I squad Ball State in a match they still managed to pull out 4-3.
Once play switched to singles format, No. 1 Kendra Higgins and No. 3 Carmen Vaca Guzman, quickly assured that Chicago would clinch the match against the fifth-ranked team in the nation, posting a 5-0 lead on the Big Red. With the match now in hand, No. 5 Chrissy Hu, a member of the top-ranked doubles team in the nation, had to pull out due to injury, giving a golden opportunity to Denison to capitalize on the No. 5 and 6 spots, avoiding the shutout and giving some much needed momentum going into tomorrow's third-place match.
"Everyone here is the best of the best and great opportunity to face some very good competition, but obviously we wanted to come here and win", said Higgins. "This is a great learning experience for us to find out what we need to accomplish to excel at the NCAA Championships."
First Round Matchup: No. 2 U. of Chicago 8, No. 7 Chapman 1
Semifinal Matchup: No. 2 U. of Chicago 7, No. 3 Denison 2
Finals Matchup: No. 2 U. of Chicago vs. No. 1 Emory
1. Higgins/Hu, (CHI) def. Cobb/Chadwell (DEN), 8-4
2. Li/Vaca Guzman (CHI) def. Marcell/Lent (DEN), 8-1
3. Krishnan/Kung (CHI) def.Geppner/Short (DEN), 8-4
Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1
1. Kendra Higgins (CHI) def. Kristin Cobb (DEN), 6-0, 6-2
2. Jennifer Kung (CHI) def. Erin Chadwell (DEN), 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 
3. Carmen Vaca Guzman (CHI) def. Sarah Short (DEN), 6-1, 6-1
4. Linden Li (CHI) def. Alex Marcell (DEN), 7-6 , 1-6, 1-0 
5. Kelsey Geppner (DEN) def. Aswini Krishnan (CHI), 6-1, 6-1
6. Kate Westenberger (DEN) def. Tiffany Nguyen (CHI), 6-2, 6-0
Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2, 5, 4, 6
Many of the top players in Division III will be taking part in the tomorrow's championship match, including NCAA Division III Champions, ITA National Small College Champions and the recipient of the James O'Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award.
Kendra Higgins, a junior from the University of Chicago captured all of the above in her first two years of her college career after capturing both National Championship doubles titles with current doubles partner, Chrissy Hu. At last year's USTA/ITA National Small College Championships, she was also named the recipient of the James O'Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award.
Joining Higgins in the conversation for Division III women's top player is Emory's Lorne McManigle, the 2009 NCAA Division III Singles Champion. McManigle finished that year ranked No. 1 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings and was a member of the 2009 ITA All-Star Team. Also making an appearance in tomorrow's finals is 2008 ITA National Small College Singles Champion, Jennifer Kung. Displaying the strength of both squads, McManigle and Kung have both played at No. 3 singles since their championship runs.
Tomorrow's championship match between No. 1 Emory and No. 2 Chicago will begin at 9:00 a.m., as will the third place match featuring No. 3 Denison and No. 5 Carnegie Mellon. All times are CT.
Admission to the event is free of charge and the public is welcome. For complete results and event information, visit www.itatennis.com.