College Station, TX--
The third pair of matches in the NCAA Division I Sweet 16, were short and, if you were a Wildcat or Bear fan, well sweet.
No. 1 Northwestern rolled past No. 16 Fresno State 4-0, with Texan Lauren Lui clinching the match at No. 4 with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Tinesta Rowe.
Wildcat coach Claire Pollard was pleased that her team won the doubles point, calling the Fresno State team's doubles lineup probably the best in the country. And although Northwestern was not able to arrive early in College Station to acclimate themselves to the heat, Pollard did say that they had done extra stamina work in Evanston to make sure they were as prepared as they could be for the heat and humidity.
In the short time it took to complete the match it was hard to tell if that actually played a role. Fresno State coach Simon Thibodeau, although proud of his team's effort in making the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row, acknowledged that the Wildcats were simply the better team, with no excuses.
Georgia Tech coach Bryan Shelton also said his team was beaten by a team that was "a little bit more than a little bit better than us," even though by seeding, it was Cal 8 and Georgia Tech 9.
After Cal won the doubles point, the 2008 NCAA finalists came out blazing in the singles, winning five first sets. Shelton had taken out Sasha Krupina at No. 5 and inserted Texan Hilary Davis at No. 6, but that juggling of his lineup had no appreciable impact on the Bears. Cal won at No. 5 and No. 4 in straight sets and had simultaneous match points on Courts 1 and 3, with Mari Andersson, a sophomore in her first year at Cal. finishing seconds before Jana Jurikova. Andersson, beat Noelle Hickey 6-3, 6-4, while Jurikova beat Irina Falconi 6-0, 6-4 to complete the unusual 5-0 sweep.
Cal head coach Amanda Augustus, in her second year at Berkeley, acknowledged that reaching the final last year was something of an emotional drain on her team, but with three of the players on that team returning, are looking at it differently this year.
"I just think mentally we're more prepared this year, and we know what to expect. We've been able to coach them on that, and they are not wasting as much energy. It's such a tough tournament."
Although a quarterfinal matchup with top seeded Northwestern probably wouldn't be considered a good draw by most, Augustus says her team is eager for it.
"We weren't looking ahead-- obviously I looked at the draw--but they were really focused on today. But (Northwestern) is obviously a match we're looking forward to; we had hoped to get to play them at the Indoors, but we lost to Georgia in the semifinals. So this is a match I know I, and the whole team, are very excited about. They're the No. 1 team in the country and they're the defending finalists, so we want to show we deserve to be back there."
For complete scores, see the aggieathletics website.
Friday, May 15, 2009