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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Three Pac-12 Teams Join Top Seed Duke in ITA Women's Team Indoor Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Charlottesville, VA--

After the excitement and upsets in Friday's first round, Saturday's quarterfinals of the ITA Women's Team Indoor Championships were more subdued affairs, with top seeds Duke and UCLA rolling to 4-0 victories at the Boar's Head Tennis Club. Their opponents in Sunday's semifinals--No. 5 seed Cal and unseeded USC--dropped only one point between them Saturday, as the Pac 12 again proved that while indoor tennis may not be customary in California, it's no impediment to its teams' success.

Duke blanked Michigan 4-0, leaving little doubt the Blue Devils had re-focused after their 4-3 squeaker against Ole Miss in the opening round on Friday. Monica Turewicz, who had not played in Friday's match with Ole Miss, clinched the match for Duke at No. 6, beating fellow freshman Kristen Dodge 6-2, 6-1.

In the other early match Saturday, No. 5 seed Cal took out No. 4 seed Georgia 4-0, although that match was closer than it may appear from the score, with Georgia enjoying leads in the three remaining matches. Cal got a big boost from 2011 NCAA champion Jana Juricova, who beat 2010 NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1. Gullickson appeared frustrated midway through the first set, but it was less from her own mistakes than from Juricova's nearly flawless play. The two big hitters engaged in some WTA-level rallies, as they always have, but it was Gullickson who usually missed the 15th, 20th or 25th ball.

Cal's Zsofi Susanyi clinched the match, beating fellow ranked freshman Lauren Herring 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 to put the Bears in the semifinals against Duke.

Second seed UCLA had fought past unseeded Georgia Tech 4-2 in the opening round late Friday night, but the Bruins had a considerably easier time against 2009 and 2010 Indoor champions Northwestern Saturday evening, beating the Wildcats 4-0. With the tone set by the doubles point and Robin Anderson's 6-0, 6-0 victory over Kate Turvy at No. 1, the Bruins were able to sustain their effort on the remaining courts, and freshman Chanelle Van Nguyen delivered the clinching point with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Nida Hamilton at 6.

Sunday's semifinal opponent for the Bruins is crosstown rival USC, who, for the second match in a row dropped a grueling doubles point, but rebounded for the victory. After beating No. 6 seed North Carolina 4-2 Friday night, USC used the same formula to down unseeded Tennessee on Saturday 4-1, sweeping the singles after losing a doubles point that took over 90 minutes to play. Friday it was the No. 3 doubles team of Valeria Pullido and Zoe Scandalis who lost a tough one in a tiebreaker, today it was the No. 2 team of Danielle Lao and Ali Ramos who fell to Vols Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti 8-6. But Richard Gallien, USC head coach, didn't have any particular words of wisdom for his team during the break before singles.

"I just told them to mourn it for two minutes and then it's over," Gallien said. "I told them, they haven't won anything, and we haven't lost anything. It wasn't that they were overconfident, but they felt, after what they did yesterday over a very good North Carolina team, that they could do it again."

Sabrina Santamaria quickly brought USC even, handing Kata Szekely her first loss of the dual match season 6-2, 6-1, and Kaitlyn Christian made it 2-1 with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Tennessee's Caitlyn Williams. USC had taken five of six first sets in the singles and looked in control, especially when Lao beat Boren 6-3, 6-4 at 2. But there was still a glimmer of hope for the Lady Volunteers when Joanna Henderson went up a break late in the second set of her match with Ramos at 6, and Toti got back on serve in the second set of her match with Gabrielle DeSimone. Meanwhile, Zoe Scandalis had just earned a third set against Tennessee's Natalie Pluskota at No. 1, the only court where the Vols had taken the first set.

At 4-4 in the second, DeSimone held easily and Toti was in the precarious position of serving to keep her team in the match. DeSimone hit a perfect lob winner to start out the game, and after a Toti error it was 15-30. DeSimone maneuvered the point in her favor and hit a forehand winner to give herself two match points, and she only needed one, as the freshman hit another forehand winner to end the match.

Gallien, who had three freshman on the court at 1, 3, and 5 singles, was happy for his older players, who have gone through two subpar years by USC standards.

"We had a pretty long stretch of Top 10 in the country, doing some good things, and then the last two years we lost a little traction," Gallien said. "I'm really happy some of these kids could experience the good stuff."

UCLA is also a young team, with four freshman playing in their first two matches in this tournament, at 1, 4, 5 and 6, but Gallien knows his team has its work cut out for it.

"They're very good, very talented, and they're seeded two here for good reason," Gallien said. "But the main thing for us is not to take our marbles home and be happy and then not show up tomorrow. We'll come and fight."

For complete results, see the ITA tournament home page.