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Friday, November 8, 2013

USC, UCLA Claim Four of Eight Semifinal Spots at USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Wild cards Sabrina Santamaria and Raymond Sarmiento will represent the University of Southern California in Saturday's semifinals, while defending champion Robin Anderson and Clay Thompson are crosstown rival UCLA's two entries as the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships approach their conclusion Sunday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Santamaria, the No. 4 seed and preseason No. 1, has played little this fall due to two injuries to her right foot, missing the All-American Championships and retiring from her semifinal match with Chanelle Van Nguyen of UCLA in the quarterfinals of the regional.

Santamaria, a junior from Los Angeles, had plantar fasciitis and then a stress reaction on her right foot.

"I literally took like a month off," said Santamaria. "No running, no nothing. Luckily we have a great trainer at USC, Drew Marcos, and he really fixed me up for this tournament. I feel great. It's a hundred percent now."

In her early afternoon second round match with Kanyapat Narattana of Oklahoma State, Santamaria posted a 6-3, 6-3 victory, but in her quarterfinal match against Virginia's Julia Elbaba this evening, the result was not quite as straightforward.  Serving for the match at 6-3, 5-4, Santamaria earned three match points, but found the net with her shots on two of them, with Elbaba putting away a short forehand to save the other. Santamaria was broken, and Elbaba took the tiebreaker--in which neither player had more than a one point lead--hitting a big forehand winner at 5-all and getting a second-serve return error on set point.

Santamaria didn't exhibit much emotion after missing those opportunities.

"I was trying to stay calm out there," said Santamaria, who received a USTA wild card into the tournament. "She played really well in the second set, especially during the important points, she made it tough for me.  I just tried to remain positive, tried to fight as much as I could. It didn't go my way, but I regrouped in third."

Santamaria was up a break most of the third set, but was unable to consolidate it until she served for the match at 5-3. This time she didn't give Elbaba any hope, holding at love, with a forehand winner giving her the 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory.

Santamaria will play top seed Jamie Loeb of North Carolina, who has followed her All-American championship with three wins here in New York.  Loeb defeated Van Nguyen of UCLA, whom she had beaten at the All American Championships last month, 7-5, 6-4 in the second round, then blew past Jenny Jullien of St. Mary's 6-2, 6-0 in just over an hour.

"I've watched her a little bit," Santamaria said of the freshman from New York. "She's a great player and I'm really excited for tomorrow. This is what I live for. I love these matches--I love the challenge. I think it's going to be really fun out there."

Loeb's teammate and fellow freshman Hayley Carter, seeded No. 7, joins her in the semifinals. Carter defeated Michigan's Emina Bektas 6-2, 6-2 in the second round, then outlasted yet another outstanding freshman, UCLA's Jennifer Brady, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.  Carter held for 5-4 in the final set, and with Brady serving at 30-30, Carter lofted a perfect lob winner to give herself a match point. After a long rally, Brady's slice went wide, putting Carter into the semifinals against Brady's teammate, defending champion Robin Anderson.

Anderson has looked extremely comfortable in her first three matches, with the junior from New Jersey posting a 6-3, 6-1 second round win over small college champion Valentine Confalonieri of Lynn and a 6-1, 6-2 victory over No. 8 seed Silvia Garcia of Georgia in the quarterfinals.

Another UCLA Bruin has reached the semifinals on the men's side, with No. 6 seed Clay Thompson collecting two wins on Friday. Thompson defeated Carlos Lopez Villa of Old Dominion 6-4, 6-2 in the second round and took out All-American Championships finalist Guillermo Alcorta of Oklahoma 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.  Thompson, a senior from Venice Beach, California who earned his entry as the All-American consolation winner, will play another Sooner on Saturday--Axel Alvarez.  Alvarez, a sophomore from Spain, blew past No. 3 seed Julian Lenz of Baylor 6-1, 6-0 in the second round, and ended the hopes of host Columbia's Winston Lin, the No. 7 seed, 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinal Friday night.

The semifinal in the top half of the men's draw will be a rematch of a third round match at the All-American championships last month, with USC's Sarmiento trying to avenge his loss there to Illinois' Jared Hiltzik.

Sarmiento defeated preseason No. 1 Mikelis Libietis of Tennessee 7-5, 7-5 in the second round, saving nine set points in the first set, then overcame an early deficit against No. 5 seed Gonzales Austin of Vanderbilt to post a 7-5, 6-2 victory in the quarterfinals.

"He came out firing, playing lights out in the beginning," said Sarmiento, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. "I was a little worried in the beginning, and was bracing myself for a really long match and a long day, but I kind of found other ways to win points."

Sarmiento determined that trading ground strokes with the left-hander from Miami was not going to work, and he began to have success with another strategy.

"I was giving him off-pace shots a little bit, slicing, hitting short slices and trying to come in more instead of banging with him," said Sarmiento, a USTA wild card recipient. "I didn't want to give him the shot he likes, right in his strike zone, and I was going in the first chance I got."

Hiltzik, seeded No. 8, reached the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Cal's Campbell Johnson in the second round, then eliminated wild card Andrew Harris of Oklahoma 6-4, 6-4.  In defeating Marcos Giron of UCLA in the first round and Harris in the quarterfinals, the sophomore from Wilmette, Illinois had beaten both collegians who had won Futures tournaments in the US this fall. 

Against Sarmiento in Tulsa, Hiltzik handled the windy conditions much better, but Sarmiento isn't convinced he'll have any advantage in the indoor environment.

"I pretty familiar with his game now," Sarmiento said. "I'm sure he practices half the year indoors, so it really makes no difference. He's a tough competitor, so it will be a good match tomorrow."

The doubles semifinalists were decided Friday morning, with two of the top four men's seeds surviving.  Top seeds Libietis and Hunter Reese of Tennessee won the last six games of the match to defeat Jorge Azuero and Shea Thomas of Liberty 8-3, and will face No. 4 seeds Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski of Illinois Saturday. Guignon and Kopinski defeated Robin Goodman and Ravi Patel of Drake 8-6.

Columbia's wild card team of Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur defeated small college champion Simon Feliz and Deni Zmak of Embry-Riddle 8-3 and will face Florida State's Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez, assuring an unseeded finalist. Lock and Nunez took out No. 2 seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas 8-6.

The women's doubles champion will be unseeded after the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds were upset Friday.  Top seeds Brady and Catherine Harrison of UCLA were beaten by Giuliana Olmos and Zoe Scandalis of USC 8-4, while two-time defending champion Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian, the No. 2 seeds, lost to Georgia's Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase 8-3.  Olmos and Scandalis will play Georgia Tech's Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard, who beat Elbaba and Rachel Pierson of Virginia 8-5.  Herring and Kowase will face Louisville's Julia Fellerhoff and Rebecca Shine, who defeated Sarah Lee and Ronit Yurovsky of Michigan 8-1.

For complete results, including consolation draws, see the ITA tournament page.