Host Schools Make the Most of Home Court Advantage During 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend
SKILLMAN, NJ (Jan. 29) -- Monday marked the conclusion of the 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, and it was mostly the host teams that managed to survive. The top seeds on the men’s side held their own as 13 of the 15 won both matches on the weekend to move on; the women’s No. 1 seeds almost made it a clean sweep, with 14 of the 15 able to advance.
Of the 15 men’s teams that qualified, five refused to concede a team point during the four day event. However, of the five teams, only one was able to do it on the road as No. 26 Texas A&M punched their ticket to Seattle, WA with a pair of sweeps. The fourth seeded Aggies opened play with a 4-0 win against top seed and host No. 10 Stanford before dismissing No. 27 San Diego in the championship match, 7-0. The four other teams that did not drop a team point over the weekend were No. 2 USC, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Duke and No. 8 Oklahoma.
The fourth seeded Volunteers of Tennessee had an impressive weekend, joining the Aggies as the only two teams not seeded first to advance to the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship. Playing at arguably the toughest site, No. 19 Tennessee proved that they will be legitimate contenders in Seattle as they knocked off No. 16 Illinois and beat No. 18 North Carolina in a rematch of last year’s NCAA second round match, dropping just one match in the process.
Like the Volunteers, three other teams gave up one team point over the weekend. No. 1 Virginia dropped just one match at fifth singles against Arkansas; it was Virginia’s only match that did not end in straight sets. No. 13 Ole Miss gave up one point en route to two team wins and No. 3 UCLA was the final men’s team to clinch a bid to Seattle, winning their championship match against BYU late Monday night, 6-1.
No. 7 Pepperdine and No. 12 Florida relinquished just two points over the weekend en route to winning their event. Meanwhile, No. 9 Kentucky gave up three points as they took down No. 17 Texas and No. 47 Michigan State. No. 6 Georgia, No. 11 Mississippi State and No. 14 Cal were all pushed to the brink of elimination over the weekend but had key players who came up big in the clutch to advance their teams to the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship. Georgia avoided a first round upset against No. 39 Vanderbilt, winning 4-3 as freshman Austin Smith won the deciding match at fifth singles. After dropping the doubles point to Auburn, Mississippi State looked to true freshman Romain Bogaerts who clinched the win for the Bulldogs at first singles, 7-5, 7-6(6). Unlike Georgia and Mississippi State, Cal turned to a senior member of their team in Riki McLachlan, who clinched the win for the Golden Bears as he came from behind to win at fifth singles 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-4.
The top seeds on the women’s side were mostly untested during 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend. A total of six teams (No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 USC, No. 7 Cal, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 16 Michigan) won both of their matches by virtue of a sweep. Sixth-ranked Georgia, No. 11 Texas and No. 13 Texas A&M also faced very little resistance in moving on to Charlottesville, surrendering a single point in two matches. The remaining six top seeds either faced a stiff challenge in attempting to move on to, or in the case of Ole Miss, failed to move on to the 2013 ITA Division I National Women’s Team Indoor Championship, hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar’s Head Sports Club.
Alabama, tied for ninth in the ITA Women’s National Team Rankings, eased through the opening day of play with a sweep of No. 52 Memphis, pitting them against the 20th-ranked Clemson Tigers with a trip to Charlottesville on the line. The doubles point was decided at the second position by a tiebreak, which Alabama won to take the early 1-0 lead. The Crimson Tide’s Antonia Foehse put her team ahead 2-0, and with two top-15 players in the first two singles spots, Alabama seemed to be in complete control. However, the Tigers came up with two huge upsets, as 32nd-ranked Yana Koroleva defeated No. 12 Mary Anne Macfarlane and unranked Anne-Liz Jeukeng won against 13th-ranked Alexa Guarachi. With the highly-ranked top of the lineup struggling, it was the Crimson Tide’s bottom half of the lineup delivering the crucial victories: Emily Zabor collected a win at the fifth position, and Natalia Maynetto (ranked No. 105) won her match at the sixth spot for a 4-2 Alabama triumph.
The Miami Hurricanes, the team tied for ninth with Alabama, was fortunate to escape from No. 35 Arizona State in their second match of the weekend. After handling No. 56 Hawai’i 7-0, the Hurricanes were faced with an early 1-0 deficit against the Sun Devils heading into singles action. Four of the six singles matches ended in straight sets, as Miami claimed three of them, giving them the slight 3-2 advantage. As the two remaining matches moved into third sets, it appeared Arizona State was minutes away from the stunning upset. On court four, Leighann Sahagun built a 5-2 lead in the final set against 92nd-ranked Stephanie Wagner of Miami, while Ebony Panoho was up 4-1 in the deciding set against Clementina Riobueno. Just as quickly as things had turned in favor of the Sun Devils, the match got away from them, as both Hurricane players were able to rally furiously. It was Riobueno who came through with the clinching triumph, taking the last five games to win the set 6-4 and send Miami to Charlottesville.
Ranked No. 14 in the ITA Women’s National Team Rankings, the Northwestern Wildcats might have seemed to be one of the teams on upset alert heading into the weekend. Northwestern had no time to work its way into this year’s ITA Kick-Off Weekend, as No. 38 Arkansas was looking to pull the upset in the first round. The Wildcats were able to overcome the Razorbacks by a final score of 5-2, setting up a showdown with Big Ten rival Purdue. The 26th-ranked Boilermakers took the doubles point, but it was Northwestern who was able to dig deep in singles play, getting straight-set victories at the top four singles positions to defeat Purdue 4-2.
Another near upset took place in Waco, as No. 15 Baylor found itself in serious trouble against conference foe No. 21 Texas Tech one day after defeating No. 36 Florida State. The Red Raiders took the doubles point in stunning fashion, winning 8-3 at the first position and 8-2 at the second spot. The Bears Ema Burgic, ranked 16th in the nation, came through with a demonstrative 6-2, 6-0 win on court one, but Texas Tech claimed quick victories on courts five and six to push their lead to 3-1. Baylor battled back with a two-set win at the fourth position, but still needed its remaining two players to claw their way to three-set conquests to pull off the 4-3 comeback to move on to the 2013 ITA DI National Women’s Team Indoor Championship.
In what was the most competitive site of the 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, the 17th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers narrowly escaped their opening round opponent, the 23rd-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols. Nebraska won the doubles point and received a retirement on court five, but still found themselves in a tight battle late in the match. Stefanie Weinstein came through in the clutch for the Cornhuskers, defeating Caitlyn Williams 6-3 in the third. Nebraska came up against No. 18 Notre Dame the next day, but the match was far less of a struggle, as the Huskers slipped by the Irish 4-1.
The only top seed to falter during the 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend was No. 19 Ole Miss. The Rebels were coming in with a loss on the road to an unranked William & Mary squad and perhaps suffered a letdown in their opening match against No. 28 Yale. The Bulldogs took the doubles point and received outstanding play from the bottom of the lineup to secure the upset. They could not carry over the momentum to the next day against another SEC opponent, No. 25 Vanderbilt, a team that was fresh off of a very impressive 4-1 defeat of No. 27 Illinois. The Commodores claimed the doubles point, but struggled to close out the match in singles. Eventually Georgina Sellyn came through for Vanderbilt with her 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win at the fourth position, as the Commodores took down the Bulldogs 4-1.
The 15 women’s teams that emerged from the 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, along with the Virginia women’s team, now have their sights set Charlottesville, VA, where Boar’s Head Sports Club will host the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship from February 8-11. The 15 men’s teams that advanced this past weekend, along with the Washington men’s team, will eye Seattle, WA, where the University of Washington will play host for the 2013 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship from February 15-18.