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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sweet 16 Set with SMU and Vanderbilt Women Posting 4-3 Upsets to Earn Their Spots; Barry and Valdosta State Win Division II Titles

It's been three solid days of college tennis, with close matches and blowouts and everything in between. Today, thirteen women's teams advanced to the team finals in Palo Alto, joining North Carolina, Miami and Northwestern, who won their second round matches yesterday. There were no major upsets (does anyone remember the last time a Top 8 seed failed to reach the Sweet 16, men or women?) with Stanford and Florida having no trouble with Pepperdine and South Carolina on their way to efficient 4-0 victories. Stanford did experience a rain delay in their match in Palo Alto, which makes me extremely nervous, because the NCAA scheduling is tight enough without weather problems compounded by no indoor alternatives to speak of. The last time the NCAAs were held at Stanford, in 2006, rain caused serious problems, so I am hyper-sensitive to any chance it may happen again. Today's delay was brief, and even playing without Kristie Ahn, who is nursing an ankle injury according to Palo Alto online, the Cardinal had no difficulty with Pepperdine.

Stanford will play Northwestern Friday, while Florida will open with No. 15 Clemson, who beat Arkansas 4-2. Clemson, the only Top 16 team sent on the road who actually got out of the regional, won the doubles point fairly easily, but had all they could handle in singles. Clemson's Maria Belaya retired in the third set of her match at No. 5, a very unusual occurrence at this stage of the season, so the severity of her injury may be a factor against Florida. Florida beat Clemson 4-1 at the Team Indoor.

The other matchups for Friday also followed the script. (I'm using the seedings, not the rankings.) They are: No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 9 Cal; No. 11 Virginia (their first trip to a Sweet 16) vs. No. 6 UCLA; No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech; and No. 10 Michigan vs. No. 7 Miami.

One of the upsets saw 19th-ranked Vanderbilt defeat No. 13 seed Tennessee in Knoxville 4-3, despite losing the doubles point and trailing 3-1. Tennessee had beaten Vanderbilt 5-2 earlier this year, but Keilly Ulery and Jackie Wu turned losses into wins this time around to change the result.

There are obvious similarities between the SMU women and Tulsa men this year, with Tulsa going on the road as a 33-48 seed, upsetting host (Oklahoma) 4-3 in the first round and top regional seed (Texas) 4-3 in the second round to advance to their first Sweet 16. Yesterday SMU (who was actually ranked 32 but seeded in the 33-48 group behind No. 34 Arizona) overcame host Texas A&M, ranked 31, 4-3, in the first round, and today took out top regional seed Florida State 4-3 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1987. The Florida State account of the match says FSU's Francesca Segarelli was down 5-0 in the final set of her match with SMU's Edyta Cieplucha at No. 2, the match that decided who would go to Palo Alto. Segarelli fought all the way back to 5-5, but couldn't win that sixth straight game, and was broken serving at 5-6 in the third.

Now that the 32 teams are official, you are welcome to make your predictions for the finalists and the score for a chance to win a Topspin4 video game. See this post for details. Also, please take a look at yesterday's post for Austin's review of the men's regionals in the comment section.

The men's bracket is here, the women's bracket is here.

The Division II championship finals were today, with Barry winning its first women's title over Lynn 5-3. The Barry men were unable to join the women as champions, falling in the final to Valdosta State 5-2.

The Elite Eight are set in Division III, with the men's bracket here and the women's bracket here.

Tomorrow I'll be catching up on the Pro Circuit and junior results as I take a break from college tennis for a couple of days before diving back (on site!) with the men's round of 16 Thursday.