©Colette Lewis 2012--
With 2011 finalists Stanford and Florida taking a pass on this year's ITA Women's Team Indoor, third-ranked Duke is the top seed. But after the Blue Devils barely got by Ole Miss 4-3, with Annie Mulholland clinching it for Duke at the No. 6 spot, there's a feeling around the Boar's Head Tennis Club that the 2012 title is definitely up for grabs.
Third seed Baylor is already out, blanked 4-0 by unseeded Tennessee. After a win over Michigan last weekend, the Lady Vols were confident coming into the tournament, according to Tennessee co-head coach Mike Patrick.
"We were playing better and better each week and getting a little bit healthier," Patrick said. "We played a good doubles point, and we probably play indoors a little bit more than Baylor, so I think that was in our favor."
Freshman Caitlyn Williams, one of the Tennessee players just rounding into form after injury, took the second point over Jordaan Sanford at No. 4, and Kata Szkeley made it 3-0 with a quick win over error-prone Sona Novakova at No. 3. With Sarah Toti up big over Emma Burgic at No. 5, and Brynn Boren rolling over Nina Secerbegovic at No. 2, it was a race to the fourth point, with Boren winning to end the match in less than three hours.
"Brynn's been playing very well," said Patrick. "She played great last weekend, came in confident this week, and she's got the kind of game--she hits such a big ball--when she gets on a roll, gets the momentum, it's hard to get into the match sometimes. I was hoping she was going to play well and she did."
After making such quick work of Baylor, who had taken Florida to three sets in nearly every match last week, Patrick stayed to watch a bit of the monumental battle between No. 6 seed North Carolina and unseeded University of Southern California, knowing that Tennessee's next opponent would be playing a couple of hours later than they did.
After a 90-minute doubles point, which North Carolina won at No. 3 9-8(8), USC jumped out to a lead in the majority of the singles matches, and took No. 4 and No. 5 singles to make 2-1. Sabrina Santamaria made it 3-1 for the Trojans with a win at No. 3, and that score didn't change for a while, as the three remaining matches all split. Tessa Lyons won at No. 6 to make it 3-2 USC, and the two remaining matches, at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, were just beginning the third sets. At No. 2, USC's Danielle Lao and UNC's Zoe DeBruycker had traded 7-5 sets, with Lao forcing a third set with hers. In the third set, Lao trailed 2-1, down a break, but then came a stretch of five straight breaks, which cost DeBruycker her slim leads. Lao finally held, taking a 5-4 lead in the final set, but by this time, her teammate Zoe Scandalis had taken a 5-3 lead on Court 1 over Lauren McHale. Unlike Court 2, there had been only one break in the third set, and Scandalis got it. McHale saved match points but held to make it 5-4, forcing Scandalis to serve it out. The freshman hit two good first serves on the first two points, but McHale won both long points, and a double fault followed. On the next point McHale confidently put away an overhead, and it was 5-5.
Back on court 2, Lao had match point with DeBruycker serving, and just that quickly it was over, with DeBruycker netting a backhand to give Lao the 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 win, making it a 4-2 final. The victory guarantees an unseeded semifinalist.
Duke will play No. 8 seed Michigan, who rolled past unseeded Clemson 4-0. The Wolverines' Sam Critser, who has not played due to her recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery, was in the doubles lineup, but did not play singles against Clemson, who did not have Josipa Bek in their lineup.
No. 4 Georgia got by unseeded Texas 4-2, and will play No. 5 seed Cal, a 4-0 winner over unseeded Miami. That means we'll have another chapter in the rivalry between Cal's Jana Juricova, the 2011 NCAA champion and Georgia's Chelsey Gullickson, the 2010 NCAA champion, now both seniors.
In the night matches, unseeded Northwestern sent the local supporters home disappointed, with the Wildcats taking a 4-2 win over the No. 7 seeded Virginia Cavaliers. Linda Abu Mushrefova clinched at No. 3 for Northwestern.
In a match that ended just six minutes prior to midnight, No. 2 seed UCLA came back from the loss of the doubles point to claim a 4-2 win over unseeded Georgia Tech.