Georgia, North Carolina into final of ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship
Georgia upsets California 4-2; North Carolina shuts out Florida 4-0
Georgia, which had lost earlier this spring to two Top 10 foes, has upset two in as many days here at the ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championships, as they defeated fifth-seeded California 4-2 in Sunday's first semifinal. Dropping close road contests to Baylor (4-3) and Virginia (4-2) in the past three weeks did not dampen the Bulldogs' enthusiasm entering the tournament. "Those losses are experiences that you've got to learn from, and we've had a couple of them this year," said head coach Jeff Wallace. "We've learned some great lessons, applied them and moved forward, and that model has worked well for us."
Hannah King, Georgia
Georgia's depth came through again today against California. The Bulldogs first won the doubles point, winning on courts two and three, and controlled the latter half of the singles lineup by winning points at second, fifth and sixth singles. A shootout at No. 1 singles between Georgia's Lauren Herring and California's Maegan Manasse would go unfinished.
California got on the board quickly and evened the score at 1-1 when Klara Fabikova took down Ellen Perez, 6-2, 6-2. Caroline Brinson quickly restored Georgia's lead with a straight set win on court six, and Kennedy Shaffer made it 3-1 when she won 6-3, 6-4 over California's Zsofi Susanyi at third singles. California's Denise Starr drew the match to 3-2 Georgia with a straight-set win on court four, and with Herring and Manasse duking it out, the opportunity to clinch an upset was presented to Georgia freshman Hannah King on court five for the second straight match. She sealed Georgia's seventh championship appearance with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over California's Karla Popovic.
"It feels amazing," said King. "It's such a cool moment to experience this with my team. As a freshman, to have my first clinches on such big stages, I'm just really proud of everyone for the support they've given me. I've got eight amazing girls around me and I knew we would be able to come together and do something really special this season."
With North Carolina having lost only one point in their three-match march to the final, Wallace knows it will take a another total team effort.
"Everybody's contributing, everybody's playing well, everybody's playing hard and we're just looking forward to a great final," said Wallace.
After two decisive upset wins, Wallace likes the way his players are handling the pressure of playing in a national championship.
"They're just enjoying that part of the sport and that's what you want your players to do," he said. "You don't want it to ever be easy. It's not easy out here. These are close matches and hard-fought matches, but people have to step up and win big points and play at high levels, and that's what we're seeing."
(3) North Carolina 4, (2) Florida 0
After yesterday's 4-0 win over Miami (FL), North Carolina head coach Brian Kalbas talked about the importance of keeping the pedal to the metal when you have a lead. The third-seeded Tar Heels did just that in another 4-0 win, this time against No. 2 Florida to earn a place in Monday's final.
The Gators were without freshman standout Josie Kuhlman, who was unable to play on Sunday. Looking to ease the pressure, the No. 7 pairing of Kourtney Keegan and Brooke Austin were quickly off the court with a 6-1 win at first doubles. After UNC picked up the win at third doubles, Tar Heels Jamie Loeb and Caroline Price picked up their third win of the week at No. 2 to claim the doubles point and a 1-0 edge.
Caroline Price, UNC
"We didn't come out great in doubles, but we ended it really well," Kalbas said. "We were nervous in the beginning of doubles and we were making some errors. I think we thought that since they were missing one of their key players, this was really an opportunity for us. That put a little more pressure on us early. Getting the doubles point relaxed us a bit."
A very confident Price (No. 22) cruised through her No. 3 singles match, defeating No. 11 Belinda Woolcock 6-1, 6-1 to double the Tar Heels lead to 2-0. Price is 6-0 overall this week, having only lost 16 games. Each remaining match featured multiple momentum swings, with a third set looming on many courts.
At fourth singles, Whitney Kay held a 3-1 lead with a set in hand on Court 11 before No. 43 Peggy Porter took four straight games. Kay remained composed and forced a second tie-break, which she won 7-4 to give North Carolina a commanding 3-0 lead.
One court over, Ashley Dai was working to complete her comeback. After losing the first set 6-3 to a Top 40 opponent, she was in good spirits.
"I think I finished the first set well" Dai said. "My coach came over and she said 'you're getting more balls in, you're staying down and you're playing your game more.' I was like I've got this. I just have to do me, not look across the net and look at what she's doing. It worked out well."
Dai finished the job, winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to give the Tar Heels their second ITA National Team Indoor final appearance in three years.
"It's pretty indescribable," Dai said. "I haven't clinched a lot of matches, so it feels awesome to be able to do this in a big tournament that we really have fun playing in. I've been in a great mood lately and having fun at practice. Being able to do that for the team and see them so happy, it makes all the hard work worth it."
North Carolina will play Georgia for the championship trophy.
"They've been here all week; they played Virginia here on Monday," Kalbas said. "You can tell that they're a really talented team and very confident right now. They're a very good indoors and in doubles. The doubles point will be important."
In consolation matches, Oklahoma State topped Vanderbilt 4-2, Alabama upset Duke 4-1, UCLA beat Miami 4-0, Virginia defeated TCU 4-1, USC bested Michigan 4-2 and Clemson knocked off Kentucky 4-2.
For complete coverage of the 2015 ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship, including access to draws, live scores and more, please visit the official ITA event page. Follow the ITA on Twitter, @ITAtennis, or like the ITA Facebook page for updates and news from Charlottesville. Use the hashtag #ITAIndoors for all tweets about the event, and search the term "ITAIndoors" to find others who are tweeting about the event.
About the ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship
The ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championships is held annually each February and has been held since 1988. The tournament features 16 participating teams: the 15 schools who won both of their matches during the 2015 ITA Kick-Off Weekend and the host school. The tournament is held over four days, and begins on Friday with first round play, followed by quarterfinals on Saturday, semifinals on Sunday and the final on Monday. This year's championship will be hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia from February 6-9. The defending women's champion is Duke University.
About the Boar's Head Sports Club
The 2015 ITA Women's National Team Indoor Championship will be held at the sports facility of The Boar's Head, recognized as a top 50 tennis resort in the United Stated by Tennis Magazine. The Boar's Head was also named the 2008 Private Facility of the Year by Racquet Sports Industry Magazine, while also receiving recognition from TennisResorts.com as one of the top 75 tennis resorts in the world. The facility contains a total of 26 courts: 10 Har-Tru outdoor courts, four outdoor hard courts, and 12 state-of-the-art DecoTurf indoor courts.