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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Washington and South Carolina Women Earn Sweet 16 Berths with Upsets of Top Ten Teams


The clear line that usually delineates a Top 16 team in Division I college tennis was plenty blurred on Sunday. In the nine matches played on Mother's Day, an amazing five of them were decided by 4-3 scores, with two others finishing 4-2. Contrast that with last year, when only two second round matches went the distance.

Where to start? The biggest upsets were intraconference with No. 22 South Carolina eliminating No. 10 Tennessee and No. 32 Washington taking down No. 7 Southern California.

South Carolina had fallen 4-2 to Tennessee less than three weeks ago, losing the doubles point and at No. 1 singles; gaining those two points this afternoon was the difference. Tennessee's Caitlin Whoriskey had beaten South Carolina's Gira Schofield in two tiebreak sets at No. 1 singles last month; this time Whoriskey had to win a second set tiebreaker just to keep the match going. She did, but over five hours after the match had begun, Whorisky finally succumbed to Schofield 7-5, 6-7, 6-4. For the South Carolina account of the match, see their website.

In Los Angeles, the end came even more dramatically, although the Washington battle with Southern California wasn't nearly as long as the contest in Knoxville. Without their No. 4 player Gabriela Niculescu, USC's doubles combinations weren't their customary ones, and they lost the doubles point. A month ago, Washington had lost to USC 4-3, although two of the Huskies' points came after USC had clinched. This time it was Washington taking the doubles point and it looked very bleak for USC when they dropped four of six first sets. USC forced third sets in two of those matches however, at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, and Amanda Fink came all the way back to defeat Denise Dy at No. 2 to even the match at 3-3. It came down to No. 1 singles, where USC's Maria Sanchez and Washington's Venise Chan were tied at 5 in the third. The tiebreaker went to Chan and now the Huskies head to College Station to play the other underdog, South Carolina. For the story and results of the match, see the Washington athletic website.

That thriller wasn't the only one decided in a third set tiebreaker. No. 16 Fresno State, sent on the road for regional competition, barely escaped the No. 34 ranked Fighting Illini in Urbana, when Renata Kucerkova defeated Chelcie Abajian 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(3) at No. 3 singles. Illinois had upset Vanderbilt in the same fashion yesterday, winning a third set tiebreaker at No. 6 singles, and with no seniors and a good recruiting class, the future looks very promising in Champaign-Urbana. For the Fresno State account of the match, click here.

In the other 4-3 matches, No. 11 UCLA escaped Arizona State's upset bid, with freshman Nina Pantic winning the last ten games of her match with Laila Abdala at No. 4 singles to keep the defending champions alive in this year's tournament, and No. 14 Arkansas survived a determined effort by TCU to earn another Sweet 16 berth.

Florida beat Florida State 4-2, and Baylor overcame the loss of the doubles point to SMU, winning four singles matches to earn the 4-2 win.

The least exciting matches were in Athens, Ga. and Palo Alto, Calif., where No. 2 Georgia blanked Boise State and No. 13 Stanford shut out LSU.

For complete brackets, visit the ITA's Championship Central.


Austin said...

in the post-match comments the USC coach said Sanchez led 5-2 in the third, but couldnt close it.

Does anyone else have a problem getting USC's live scoring to work? Ever since last year it works for me at work, but not at home. Clemson and Michigan use the same scoreboard, A&M also just switched over and all of theres work for me so its not a format issue.

Tulsa's live scoring seemed to be up to their old tricks as I couldnt get it to work either.

I wonder what the cost is to move from a scoreboard like Tennessee, Illinois and Notre Dame, along with a lot of other teams to one like UGA, Michigan and Clemson use that gives true live scoring.

Colette Lewis said...

I can't use the Firefox browser for any true live scoring, but in Safari and Flock browsers, Tulsa, USC, Stanford, UGA etc. all worked fine for me. But I had difficulty with getting Florida's format to work for me. (I do not use Internet Explorer at all.)

It would be nice if the live scoring format could be standardized, but compared to junior tennis tournaments, it's so great to have even a rudimentary attempt at providing it.

Austin said...

True, any form of live scoring is better than nothing. A decade ago we would have to read box scores in the paper or on the website if they did a good job updating it, so anything else is gravy. Ones with live video is like heaven.

Very random, but I was looking at the FSU-Auburn score a minute ago and the caption said something to the effect of "seniors led Noles to victory." Wondering who all were seniors I clicked on their roster to find Bobby Cammeron on it. Anyone know the scoop there?

TechGirl said...


I had long stretches where USC's site just wouldn't load. Perhaps it was a premonition LOL.

Seriously though, you've got to say that there some teams were just plain unlucky with the draw in their first two rounds. While Georgia Tech, Georgia, Cal, Stanford, and Miami got really easy early rounds, other leading teams like UCLA, Arizona State, South Carolina and USC had real killer draws (all in the same half).

Other interesting thing is that, of the 32 first round matches 23 resulted in 4-0 wipe outs. Another 5 were 4-1. That's 28 matches played, 112 for and 5 against.
Of the 16 second round matches, 4 were 4-0 wipe outs and another 5 went to 4-1. There were two 4-2 results and 5 that went to 4-3.

That to me says that a lot of teams didn't deserve to be in the NCAAs at all and the organisers should look at reducing the event by one full round. Rewarding mediocrity might be okay in high school where everyone gets to make the team but it just seems stupid when you're playing for a national title.

We watched GT beat Jackson State and it was nothing short of embarrassing, even for die hard GT fans. GT won 82 games and lost only 4 for the entire day. In the biggest tournament of the college year that shouldn't be possible.

Austin said...

Tennis is probably the worst sport for pulling upsets or being competitive. It doesnt matter if you have the three best players in the country on your team, if the other three arent any good and cant win matches your team wont be any good. In baseball you can win with one or two dominant pitchers, same with basketball.

In college tennis, even if your #1 and #2 guys can beat half the players on the other team it doesnt help because they have to go against the best from that team. That is why you see so many blowouts, strategy in a lot of cases doesnt come into play. You cant switch to a zone defense or go no-huddle to throw off the other team.

The only upset I predicted of seeded teams was Louisville over Illinois, look at the scores, it looked like Louisville was just playing one position at each spot too high. If they have a guy playing #1 or #2 that allows each player to move down maybe instead of 4-1 its a nailbiter at 4-3. Same can be said of the LSU-Ole Miss match, among others. You not only need the top end guys/gals, but the depth as well.

txcollege10s said...

Removing one round isn't going to eliminate Jackson State from the tournament. They are the automatic qualifier from the SWAC and you are NEVER going to get rid of those.

As for live scoreboards, you can read my interview with the TAMU Director of Tennis Operations I posted today.

I use google chrome and always have issue with live scoreboards, so I reluctantly open IE.

Austin said...

It doesnt make sense why all the conferences get automatic bids into the team tourney, yet only 16 conferences get their highest ranked player into the individual tournament. Make it the same for both, one way or the other.

I had a beef this year with Arkansas not making it. Tennis pretty much just goes strictly by the rankings, I think the Razorbacks were better than some of the last teams to get at-large bids.