Kay's Comeback Gives North Carolina 4-3 Win Over USC; Tar Heels Join UCLA, Duke and Georgia in ITA Women's Team Indoor Semifinals
©Colette Lewis 2013--
University of North Carolina freshman Whitney Kay had what her coach called the "deer in the headlights" look Saturday night at the Boar's Head Sports Club, down 3-0 and two breaks of serve against University of Southern California's Zoe Scandalis in the third set, with the Tar Heels trailing 3-2.
But Kay went from hunted to hunter, winning the final six games of the matching to earn a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 decision, which clinched the 4-3 victory that put her team in Sunday's 3:30 p.m. semifinal against No. 2 seed and ACC rival Duke.
Kay's heroics would not have been necessary had her teammate Lauren McHale not fashioned her own comeback at line 4. McHale trailed USC's Gabriella DeSimone 4-2 in the final set, but the senior from New Jersey completely eliminated unforced errors from her game when it mattered most. DeSimone, who had clinched USC's hard-fought win over Virginia Friday night, couldn't summon that level in the last four games, with unforced errors giving McHale an opening she gladly stepped through.
By the time McHale had made the score 3-3, Kay was already on the comeback trail, back on serve and a point away from taking a 4-3 lead.
North Carolina coach Brian Kalbas reminded Kay that she had recovered from a similar predicament in a fall match against Kata Szekely of Tennessee, and that she could do it again.
"In the Furman tournament, she was up a set and a break, then got down 3-0 in the third, so I just told her, you know what you need to do," said Kalbas. "You need to get back to playing your game, and she did that. She played a solid couple of games, got herself into it, and at the end it was about executing the game plan."
Kay admitted she was nervous initially, but recovered from that.
"Before it happened, I was thinking about it and I was a little nervous," said Kay, a Georgia native. "But once I realized it was down to me, I was pretty excited. I wanted to enjoy the moment and clinch it."
With Scandalis making more and more unforced errors as she saw the match slipping away, Kay gained confidence, and when Scandalis netted a backhand serving at 3-4, 30-40, Kay had her chance to serve it out. She took a 40-15 lead, mostly thanks to Scandalis errors, but double faulted the first match point away. On the second, Kay lined up a forehand and went for it, hitting a clean winner down the line to set off a jubilant celebration as her teammates rushed to congratulate her.
"That shot felt great," Kay said.
Third-seeded Southern Cal had taken the doubles point and collected wins from Sabrina Santamaria at line 1 and Danielle Lao at line 2, but No. 6 seed North Carolina picked up wins by Caroline Price at 5 and Ashley Dai at 6 to give McHale and Kay their opportunities.
"We won four first sets, which helped us get some momentum," said Kalbas. "We lost a couple of second sets, but we were really tough in the end. Down 4-2, down 3-0, but the one thing about our team, we have amazing competitors and it was a great display by our team."
North Carolina 4, USC 3
1. #17 Sabrina Santamaria (USC) def. #11 Gina Suarez-Malaguti (NC) 6-3, 6-2
2. #14 Danielle Lao (USC) def. #28 Zoe De Bruycker (NC) 6-3, 6-2
3. #21 Whitney Kay (NC) def. #19 Zoe Scandalis (USC) 6-2, 5-7, 6-3
4. #111 Lauren McHale (NC) def. #56 Gabriella DeSimone (USC) 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
5. #36 Caroline Price (NC) def. Giuliana Olmos (USC) 6-2, 6-2
6. #65 Ashley Dai (NC) def. Kaitlyn Christian (USC) 6-2, 6-3
1. #1 Kaitlyn Christian/Sabrina Santamaria (USC) def. #7 Ashley Dai/Whitney Kay (NC) 8-3
2. #13 Gabriella DeSimone/Zoe Scandalis (USC) vs. Gina Suarez-Malaguti/Zoe De Bruycker (NC) 7-4, unfinished
3. Giuliana Olmos/Danielle Lao (USC) def. #51 Lauren McHale/Tessa Lyons (NC) 8-3
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (5,2,1,6,4,3
North Carolina's semifinal opponent will be 2012 finalists Duke, who defeated Northwestern 4-1 in Saturday's quarterfinal, the second time the Blue Devils had beaten the Wildcats in past last week.
Hosting Duke at home last Sunday, Northwestern lost 4-0, so determined to change that dynamic, the Wildcats came out strong in doubles. They couldn't maintain that momentum however, with Duke's Ester Goldfeld and Mary Clayton coming from 7-4 down to Nida Hamilton and Linda Abu Mushrefova to take the No. 1 line in a tiebreaker, and Duke taking the point in another tiebreaker at line 2.
Northwestern avoided a shutout with Belinda Nui's win at line 4, but victories from Goldfeld at 3 and Marianne Jodoin at 6 gave Monica Turewicz the opportunity to close it out at 5. Serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set, Turewicz was broken by Mushrefova, but she converted in the next game to put Duke in the semifinals.
Duke 4, Northwestern 1
1. #10 Hanna Mar (DUKE) vs. #67 Kate Turvy (NU) 7-6, 4-1, unfinished
2. #53 Mary Clayton (DUKE) vs. Veronica Corning (NU) 6-7, 6-2, 1-1, unfinished
3. #40 Ester Goldfeld (DUKE) def. Brittany Wowchuk (NU) 6-2, 6-1
4. Belinda Niu (NU) def. Annie Mulholland (DUKE) 6-3, 6-0
5. Monica Turewicz (DUKE) def. Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) 7-6, 6-3
6. #63 Marianne Jodoin (DUKE) def. Nida Hamilton (NU) 6-2, 6-2
1. Mary Clayton/Ester Goldfeld (DUKE) def. #42 Linda Abu Mushrefova/Nida Hamilton (NU) 8-7
2. Marianne Jodoin/Annie Mulholland (DUKE) def. Veronica Corning/Alicia Barnett (NU) 8-7
3. Monica Turewicz/Hanna Mar (DUKE) vs. Belinda Niu/Kate Turvy (NU) 7-4, unfinished
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (3,4,6,5)
In the other early quarterfinal match, defending champion and top seed UCLA fought off No. 8 seed Miami 4-2.
The Bruins lost the doubles point, but took a 3-1 lead in no time, with Robin Anderson at 1, Kyle McPhillips at 2 and Chanelle Van Nguyen at 4 picking up easy wins. Miami made it 3-2 when Clementina Riobueno defeated Skylar Morton at line 6, but the last two matches were still tightly contested. At line 3, Kelsey Laurente of Miami and Pam Montez were early in the third set when freshmen Stephanie Wagner of Miami and Catherine Harrison were approaching the end of their second set, with Harrison having taken the first set in a tiebreaker. Harrison had two match points with Wagner serving at 4-5 in the second set, but she couldn't convert them, and a second tiebreaker was necessary.
Wagner committed a costly double fault at 3-2 in the tiebreaker, then after an error by Harrison was overruled by the chair umpire on the next point, giving Harrison a winner on the far sideline. Harrison made it 6-3 with a backhand winner, and Harrison took the match on her first match point, when Wagner's desperate shot hit the ceiling over court 5.
UCLA will play Georgia on Sunday at noon on Sunday.
UCLA 4, Miami 2
1. #6 Robin Anderson (UCLA) def. Monique Albuquerque (UM) 6-0, 6-2
2. #47 Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) def. #57 Lina Lileikite (UM) 6-0, 6-2
3. #96 Pamela Montez (UCLA) vs. #51 Kelsey Laurente (UM) 3-6, 6-3, 3-3, unfinished
4. Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) def. Melissa Bolivar (UM) 6-1, 6-2
5. Catherine Harrison (UCLA) def. #92 Stephanie Wagner (UM) 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-3)
6. Clementina Riobueno (UM) def. Skylar Morton (UCLA) 7-5, 6-4
1. Lina Lileikite/Stephanie Wagner (UM) def. #16 Robin Anderson/Skylar Morton (UCLA) 8-6
2. Courtney Dolehide/Pamela Montez (UCLA) vs. Melissa Bolivar/Kelsey Laurente (UM) 4-7, unfinished
3. Monique Albuquerque/Clementina Riobueno (UM) def. Kyle McPhillips/Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) 8-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (1,2,4,6,5)
A third freshman clinched for her team on Saturday, with Georgia's Mia King, who started school in January, earning the final point in No. 4 seed Georgia's 4-1 win over No. 5 seed Cal.
Georgia showed it meant business in the doubles, taking the first point quickly with easy wins at No. 1 and No. 3. In singles, Georgia coach Jeff Wallace shuffled his lineup at the top, inserting Maho Kowase at No. 1 and moving Lauren Herring to No. 2, and although Kowase lost to Cal's Zsofia Susanyi 6-0, 6-4, the bottom of the lineup came through for the Bulldogs.
Coaches are allowed to change their lineup once in the three matches they are guaranteed in the Team Indoor, and Wallace believed this was the match to make a switch.
"Maho had beaten her at the All-American tournament," Wallace said of the move at No. 1. "So we thought that might give us a little edge there. She's a great player, and we didn't win that match, but you know that one's going to be tough no matter who plays her."
It was Georgia's three freshmen who collected the points Georgia needed to avenge their loss to Cal in the quarterfinals last year, with Silvia Garcia at 3 and Mackenzie Craft at 6 providing points 2 and 3 before King defeated Kelly Chui at 5 to end it.
"We played unbelievable doubles today," Wallace said. "It just set the tone and they played absolutely fantastic, and then we have three freshmen come in and get all the wins there to clinch the match for us. We're really excited and looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow."
Georgia 4, Cal 1
1. #7 Zsofi Susanyi (CAL) def. Maho Kowase (UGA) 6-0, 6-4
2. #18 Lauren Herring (UGA) vs. #9 Anett Schutting (CAL) 3-6, 6-2, 2-0, unfinished
3. #54 Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. #109 Lynn Chi (CAL) 6-4, 6-2
4. Kate Fuller (UGA) vs. Tayler Davis (CAL) 6-3, 5-5, unfinished
5. Mia King (UGA) def. Kelly Chui (CAL) 6-4, 6-1
6. Makenzie Craft (UGA) def. Cecilia Estlander (CAL) 6-1, 6-0
1. Kate Fuller/Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. Zsofi Susanyi/Klara Fabikova (CAL) 8-2
2. #22 Lilly Kimbell/Maho Kowase (UGA) vs. Lynn Chi/Anett Schutting (CAL) 5-4, unfinished
3. Mia King/Lauren Herring (UGA) def. Tayler Davis/Laura Posylkin (CAL) 8-1
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (1,3,6,5)