Rematch of 2012 Final Staged for 2014 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship
UCLA, Duke set to play for title
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (Feb. 9) - The final is set for the 2014 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship and it will be a rematch of the 2012 final, with Duke and UCLA besting California and Northwestern, respectively, to earn their spots in the championship match.
Here's what transpired in the semifinals on Sunday.
Hanna Mar won two matches again today
Duke 4, Cal 2
In a rematch of the 2009 NCAA Team Championship, seventh-seeded Duke won a hard-fought doubles point to take the early lead against eight-seeded Cal. The second doubles pairing of Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith put Duke up early as they defeated Denise Starr and Kelly Chui, 6-3. Cal's third doubles team leveled things at 1-1 when Lynn Chi and Alice Duranteau took out Annie Mulholland and Marianne Jodoin, 7-5. So it came down to first doubles, and Blue Devils Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar started off well against Cal's Maegen Manasse and Anett Schutting, breaking early for a 3-1 lead.
But the Golden Bears broke back against Capra's serve to level the match at 3-3. Manasse then struggled to hold serve, needing three game points to secure a 4-3 lead. From there, the two teams had little between them, each holding serve until 5-5, then the two traded loose service games as both Manasse and Mar were broken at love. The doubles point then came down to a tiebreak. Duke grabbed a 4-2 lead and hung on for a 7-4 win to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead.
Capra, ranked No. 3 in the ITA Singles Rankings, got off to a quick 5-0 start against Cal's No. 15 Denise Starr, a freshman. But Starr started working her way into the match when Capra served for the bagel set, and broke back then held to close to 5-2. The Blue Devil was able to close the first set at 6-2 and then wrap up the second 6-2 to build Duke's lead to 2-0.
Cal got on the board when the powerful Klara Fabikova rallied from a set down to defeat Rachel Kahan. In the match tiebreak, Fabikova was down 2-3 before she surged and won eight straight points thanks to a flurry of forehand winners for the victory. No. 16 Zsofi Susanyi of Cal then tied the match at 2-2 with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Alyssa Smith at fourth singles.
The three remaining singles matches all reached match tiebreaks, and it was senior Mar, ranked No. 49, who would first edge No. 95 Lynn Chi 6-3, 3-6, 10-4 to inch Duke closer to a sixth final at this event.
Marianne Jodoin celebrates with her team after clinching the win
"With the way the format is set up, it favors the person that wins the second set," said Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. "To come back and put the second set out of your mind right away is a tough thing to do. Hanna does a really good job of not really playing to the score. She can compartmentalize really well."
While Mar was playing her match tiebreak, Marianne Jodoin was battling Cal's Maegan Manasse (No. 31), in her own third set tiebreak. The Blue Devil sealed the victory for her team with a tight 11-9 win, helping send Duke back to the final. Ashworth said his team knew they were in for a battle. "We've played them [California] here a couple times. We know that they're going to come out and swing."
"Our goal coming into this weekend was to try to make a statement about where our program is," he continued. "We've really felt like we were better than where we were [in the preseason rankings]."
The Blue Devils have won this event just once, claiming the 2003 title with a 4-3 win over Florida. They have also made the final in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2012, when they played UCLA.
"We've historically played pretty well here," said Ashworth. "It's going to be a tough match. UCLA has a great lineup all the way through in singles and doubles."
UCLA 4, Northwestern 0
Jennifer Brady dropped just five games in her singles match
In the second semifinal, fourth-seeded UCLA matched up with unseeded Northwestern. The Wildcats were fresh off a remarkable 4-2 win over top-seeded Florida, and the Bruins had bullied crosstown foe USC, 4-0.
Both teams brought intensity to doubles, as neither had surrendered the doubles point thus far in the tournament. With each match locked at 3-all, Duke took things up a notch at first and second doubles, winning three straight games on each court to secure the 1-0 lead.
Freshman Jennifer Brady had nothing but compliments for doubles partner Robin Anderson. "We're pretty confident and we play well together," Brady said. "We just have a lot of fun together. I usually prefer doubles because you have someone out there with you who's trying to keep you calm. It's more fun because you're playing with someone else."
Brady quickly took charge at No. 3 singles, stretching the court with her powerful serve and forehand. After winning the first set 6-3, Brady cruised to a 5-0 lead in the second. She was broken serving for the match, but was able to complete the 6-3, 6-2 win and give the Bruins a 2-0 edge.
At first singles, ITA No. 1 Robin Anderson (UCLA) shot out to a 3-1 lead, frazzling Northwestern's Veronica Corning in the early stages. However, Corning locked in and started taking control of the points with her strong baseline play to win three straight games and earn a 4-3 lead with a break in hand. Anderson broke back, then both players held twice to force a tiebreak. Down 4-3 in the breaker, Corning threw in two forehand errors and a double fault, giving Anderson the first set.
With momentum in hand, Anderson swept around the court and dug out everything Corning had to offer in the second set. Despite Corning's best effort, Anderson prevailed 7-6 (3), 6-4 to put UCLA one point away from the team win at 3-0.
Robin Anderson is 6-0 and hasn't lost a set at this event
All four remaining matches neared the end, with Northwestern's Lok Sze Leung even saving two match points to keep the Wildcats' hopes alive. UCLA's Kaitlin Ray fought back from 3-0 down in the first set to win in a tiebreak, then cruised to a 5-1 lead in the second set. With Ray serving at 40-love, Wildcat Maddie Lipp saved two more match points to bring the team total to four before Ray was able to close the door for good on a 4-0 UCLA victory.
"It feels great, but it doesn't feel like a 4-0 win," UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster said. "Every match has been so close. We've been very fortunate to win those doubles points. I've got a team of veterans; we only have one freshman out there. This team knows what it's like and what needs to be done."
Two years ago, the Bruins beat the Blue Devils 4-0 to earn UCLA's first ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship title, and Sampras Webster is excited for the chance to repeat the success.
"Other than here or the NCAAs, we won't get to play them [Duke]," she said. "It's a great opportunity for us to play them and see how we do. They've obviously had a great tournament and played really well to beat Cal. I'm sure it's going to be a big battle and come down to a few points."
A number of consolation matches were also held on Sunday, highlighted by No. 3 North Carolina narrowly beating No. 4 Georgia 4-3 in a match where five of six singles matches went to match tiebreaks. In another top 10 battle, No. 2 Florida defeated No. 6 USC, 4-1. Click here to view all consolation results.
Monday's final will be played at 11am EST, and live streams and scores will be available here.
For complete coverage of the 2014 ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship, including access to draws, live streaming, live scores and more, please visit the official ITA event page. Follow the ITA on Twitter, or like the ITA Facebook page for news and photos from Charlottesville. Use the hashtag #ITAIndoors for all tweets in regards to the event, or search the term "ITAIndoors" to find others who are tweeting about the 2014 ITA Women's National Team Indoor Championship, Feb. 7-10.
About the ITA Experimental Format
About the ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship
The ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship 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 2014 ITA Kick-Off Weekend and the host site 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.