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Friday, May 17, 2013

Miami Women Take 4-3 Decision From Northwestern to Set Up Quarterfinal with Texas A&M

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Urbana, IL--

The North courts at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Center were the scene of one marathon after another in the women's round of 16 Friday.  After Cal needed four hours to subdue Alabama, and Stanford battled past Southern California in five hours, No. 6 seed Miami and No. 11 Northwestern took the courts for their 4 p.m. match at 7 p.m. Keeping the theme going, it was 11 p.m. before the Hurricanes earned a 4-3 victory to advance to the quarterfinals against No. 3 seed Texas A&M.

Miami started off comfortably, taking the doubles point in dominating fashion and getting a quick 6-1, 6-2 victory from Stephanie Wagner at No. 1.

But that was all that came easy for Miami. Kelsey Laurente of Miami and Linda Mushrefova of Northwestern, playing side by side on courts 2 and 4, won their matches simultaneously, giving Miami a 3-1 lead.

Northwestern made it 3-2 with Alicia Barnett's three-set win over Monique Albuquerque at line 5, just as splits came on courts 3 and 6.  Nida Hamilton of Northwestern forced a third at line 6, as did Lina Lilekite of Miami at line 3.

Lilekite took a 3-0 lead in the third set, but Niu won the next four games to go up a break.  She gave it back for 4-4 and Lilekite held in the next game, which featured five deuces. Serving at 4-5, Niu faced a match point at 30-40, but she hit a confident overhead to save it, then another to get a game point, which she converted for 5-5. Niu broke and then served out the match, making it 3-3.

On court 6, Melissa Bolivar of Miami had squandered a 3-1 lead in the third set, but she broke Hamilton at 4-4 to give herself a chance to serve for the match.  As all the coaches and teammates moved to the sidelines of the far court, Bolivar took a 40-0 lead.  On the first match point, Bolivar double faulted, and on the second she netted a backhand early in the rally.  On the third match point, the ball crossed over the net several dozen times, the tension building with each stroke, when Hamilton finally found a ball she liked and hit a forehand to the far sideline. Bolivar called it out, and the Northwestern fans and a few UCLA supporters sitting behind the fence on the line immediately rose as one to protest. Hamilton appealed to the chair umpire, who confirmed Bolivar's call, and the match was over.

"Northwestern's a great team," said head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews. "They always give us trouble. They seem to pick on our weaknesses and play them well.  We responded well today in some positions and we didn't respond so well in other positions, but it was a great college tennis match."

Yaroshuk-Tews didn't feel either team played their best tennis, possibly due to the three-hour delay in getting on the courts for their match.

"Getting off the court at 11:15 at night after hitting four times, you're at times just hoping a kid doesn't get hurt. It's just a little crazy to me. Last year we were playing until 2 a.m., this year (Michigan and UCLA) are going to be playing to 3 a.m. I don't think you're seeing the best tennis you would see from Northwestern or Miami in these conditions, and it's unfortunate it's happening at the NCAA tournament, but it is what it is."

Asked what she thought of the match's controversial finish, Yaroshuk-Tews supported her player.

"Obviously, if there's a close call made on the far sideline and there's 30 opposing fans on top of the line, obviously they're going to make it out like you stole the match from us," said Yaroshuk-Tews. "That's not how we play, that's not how my player plays. The umpire supported my player and I support my player's call. I was clear on the other side of the court. I think it was a very fair match from both teams from beginning to end. It's unfortunate some fans would make a kid that's been out there for that long fighting for a match think like that on the way out. That's a little disappointing to me, but I back my kid's call all the way."

No. 6 Miami  4,  No. 11 Northwestern 3
4 p.m. CT – North Courts
1. #60 Stephanie Wagner (MIA) def. Veronica Corning (NU)  6-1, 6-2
2. #81 Kelsey Laurente (MIA) def. #57 Kate Turvy (NU)  6-1, 6-3
3. Belinda Niu (NU) def. #105 Lina Lilekite (MIA)  6-3, 4-6, 7-5
4. Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) def. #102 Clementina Riobueno (MIA)  6-0, 6-4
5. Alicia Barnett (NU) def. Monique Albuquerque (MIA)  6-3, 1-6, 6-1
6. Melissa Bolivar (MIA) def. Nida Hamilton (NU)  7-6(6), 1-6, 6-4

1. Albuquerque/Riobueno (MIA) def. #14 Mushrefova/Hamilton (NU)  8-1
2. Bolivar/Laurente (MIA) vs. Corning/Barnett (NU)  6-3*
3. Wagner/Dubins (MIA) def. Turvy/Niu (NU)  8-1

Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (1,2,4,5,3,6)
* = unfinished


There was much less drama in No. 3 Texas A&M's 5-0 win over No. 14 Virginia.

The Aggies reached their first NCAA quarterfinal by taking the doubles point, and getting wins from Ines Deheza at line 4 and Nazari Urbina at line 3 to make it 3-0.

Texas A&M had some difficulty closing it out, with Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar at No. 1 losing two straight games to Julia Elbaba at 7-5, 5-0.  Cristina Stancu got a 5-2 lead over Stephanie Nauta at line 2 however, and both were in and won their match points to make the final score 5-0.

Head coach Howard Joffe knew that even after winning five of six first sets, that Virginia would bounce back.

"No one's ever really beaten, because they've done so much competing," Joffe said. "While we did race into some leads, it's kind of like an NBA playoff game, where you get up by 15 and don't go get the popcorn because it's going to be tied. I did like that when Virginia did start to rally, there was minimal whining and complaining. We stuck to the task and we're definitely playing quite well."

Joffe and his team are in the unusual position of being highly ranked, but without extensive NCAA Sweet 16 experience.

At the most basic level, I understand we have eight very, very fine players and there's no team that we can't beat," Joffe said. "And I think our record would indicate that. On the other hand, we've got a coach who's never made as a head coach the last 16 and a bunch of young ladies who haven't played at the finals site. So I guess it is a little scary, but we do have three seniors and a junior and our freshmen are very mature. We've handled all the trials and tribulations well, so it's not that much of a concern."

No. 3 Texas A&M 5,  No. 14 Virginia 0
4 p.m. CT – South Courts
1. #4 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. #12 Julia Elbaba (UVA)  7-5, 6-2
2. #68 Cristina Stancu (TAMU) def. #78 Stephanie Nauta (UVA)  6-4, 2-6, 6-2
3. #52 Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. Hana Tomljanovic (UVA)  6-3, 6-4
4. Ines Deheza (TAMU) def. Li Xi (UVA)  6-2, 6-1
5. Anna Mamalat (TAMU) vs. Erin Vierra (UVA)  2-6, 6-2, 4-1*
6. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) vs. Caryssa Peretz (UVA)  6-1, 3-6, 5-2*

1. #18 Stancu/Hristov (TAMU) def. Nauta/Vierra (UVA)  9-7
2. #49 Wen/Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. Elbaba/Tomljanovic (UVA) 7-4*
3. Deheza/Deheza (TAMU) def. Fuccillo/Xi (UVA)  8-3

Order of Finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (4,3,2,1)
* = unfinished


Too Long Jones said...

The Miami coach is saying it's unfortunate to be playing so late in the day at the NCAAs. Totally agree. Maybe I'll get thrashed for saying this, but college tennis would really improve if it became more "elitist". There are too many matches, too many players on a team. It's too much for a fan to follow, and often times it's too drawn out. Four or five hours for a contest? Can you imagine the drop in revenue if football or basketball was structured like that?

Cut down the players, cut down the matches. Perhaps 5-6 players per team? Two doubles matches that both count, 3 singles, 5 matches total played until conclusion.

What happens now is that players often drag out matches based on the results around them. End that. If a player knows beforehand that his match counts, you'll have far less stalling.

There’s the capital outlay when constructing facilities. It becomes an arms race to outfit your school with a dozen courts, 6 indoor courts, a scoreboard the size of a barn door to keep track of all the chaos, etc. If you cut down the teams and the format, you end up with less expense and greater revenue. Today, the revenue doesn't even matter because there aren't enough fans. I wonder why.

Maybe if the expenses were lower, the revenue up, they’d be able to pay a few ball kids to further speed the game up, and presto, even more fans, bigger improvement in the players since they’re not walking 2 miles after balls…

Player dev’p would improve because the coach to player ratio would improve, the gap between pro tennis and the college game would shrink, more kids on the cusp of a pro career would decide to play college, further improving the competition.

What happens to the players who are 6-8 on the depth chart? They find another team: lower in the rankings, Div 2, Div 3, they don’t play college tennis. There’s going to be hundreds of players who won’t play college tennis, yes. But you know what? There’s thousands today that aren’t good enough to fit into an 8 player team. Does anyone lose sleep over it?

But let’s forget all this and just start the matches at 8 am. Go for the easy fix.