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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ohio State Stuns Top Seed Vanderbilt to Advance to Women's Team Indoor Semifinals; Anderson Reaches Midland $100K Final

©Jonathan Kelley for Zootennis.com
Madison, Wisconsin

The Ohio State University advanced to its first-ever ITA Women's Team Indoor Championship semifinal by beating the #1 team in the country, Vanderbilt, in a thrilling 4-3 dual match. It was a big upset for the #16-ranked Buckeyes, which has only one ranked player in its lineup.

Head coach Melissa Schaub said the win was "huge" for her program. 
"I just couldn't be happier for our players. They're a special group, and they're a good team. I think they've been good for a long time and I don't think that they've believed it. And so we've gotten into some of these big matches and it just didn't go our way. So today to get over that hump and for them to believe that they can play with anyone in the country is just an amazing feeling."

Ohio State put themselves behind the 8-ball early. After the two teams split 6-2 doubles matches at #2 and #3, OSU had two match points at #1 with Vanderbilt's Sydney Campbell serving at 4*-5 30-40. They saved one match point and on the second, Campbell's partner Courtney Colton hit a brilliant lob winner to get the match to 5-5. In the next game, OSU went down 0-40 and on break point, Miho Kowase hit a double fault. Colton then served out the next game at 15 to give Vanderbilt what seemed to be a crucial first point. Kowase and Colton then headed to court 4 for their singles match.

"We played a little bit tight," said Schaub. "They're the number one team in the country for a reason. They played the big points really well."

However, the Buckeyes came out firing in singles, going up a set at #2 (Gabriella De Santis), #5 (Ferny Angeles Paz), and #6 (Olivia Sneed). When #2-ranked freshman Francesca Di Lorenzo won her first set at #1 against #24 Sydney Campbell, OSU had four first sets, compared to two for the Commodores.

But Vanderbilt has built a resilient program. #33 Astra Sharma gave them a 2-0 lead with a 6-2 6-2 win at #3 singles over Anna Sanford, while Campbell won her second set 6-1 and #15 Frances Altick evened things up at #2 at a set apiece.

OSU's Sneed closed things out at #6 with a 6-0 6-3 win over Ellie Yates to pull OSU to within 2-1. And at #4, Kowase evened her match with Colton 2-6 6-4. And that's when things got intense.

First at #5: Vanderbilt's Georgina Sellyn, serving at 1-6 4-5, saved a deciding point/match point. After Paz held for 6-5, Sellyn saved two more match points to send the set to a tiebreaker. Things were looking great for Sellyn as she sprinted to a 5-1 lead at the changeover, and had 4 set points at 6-2. But Paz saved them all, and it was 6-6 at the next changeover. Sellyn got three more set points at 7-6, 8-7, 9-8, and 10-9 but Paz was undeterred. Paz got to her 4th match point at 11-10, and finally at 12-11, Paz hit an inside-out forehand winner to get the match and the dual was tied at 2-2.

Then came #1: Di Lorenzo broke Campbell for 5-3 and served out the match to give OSU its first lead of the match. "Francesca just has so much grit, so much heart. I'll take her against anyone in the country," said Schaub.

But at #2, Altick went up 5-2* and broke De Santis to even everything at 3-3.

So it was all down to #4. Colton, who had helped clinch the doubles point with that lob over Kowase, was serving down 1*-5 in the third set. The senior went up 40-0 but three points later it was deciding point/match point. That's when Colton hit a huge crosscourt backhand to force the junior from Tokyo to serve for the match. Impressively, Kowase held at 15, with the only lost point a double fault, and gave her team the biggest win in the program's history.

"I couldn't believe it at first. I just couldn't believe it," said Kowase. "And then I saw all my teammates' faces and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, we won. We beat them.' We worked so hard for this tournament, I think it paid off pretty well."

Vanderbilt head coach Geoff MacDonald maintained a positive outlook after the loss. "What an exciting, great dual. Phenomenal competition, hats off to Ohio State, they played a great match. We were down a lot and I was just really pleased with the way we competed, but I just commend them. They played great."

The Buckeyes will play the 4th seed University of California, a 4-1 winner over the University of Virginia.

Cal won the doubles point handily with a 6-3 win by Lynn Chi and Maria Smith at #3 followed by a 6-2 win by Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr at #1. The Bears added a quick win at #6 singles as Karla Popovic took down late replacement Taylor Wingo 6-0 6-1. 

The Cavaliers were looking stronger at the top: #4-ranked Danielle Collins secured a 6-3 6-1 win over #5 Manasse on line 1, while #8 Julia Elbaba was up a set and served for the match at 5*-4 in the second against Klara Fabikova. However, nothing much came easy for UVA today. Elbaba had 4 match points at 40-0 but Fabikova came up strong on each one to even the set at 5-5.

Meanwhile, California got its third point when freshman Olivia Hauger defeated yesterday's UVA clincher, freshman Meghan Kelley, 6-4 6-4, and earned its final point when Denise Starr won the lone three-setter of the dual, 6-0 3-6 6-3 over Victoria Olivarez.

Amanda Augustus, California's head coach, thought Fabikova extending her match was big. 

"I thought the tennis on courts 1 and 2 was just outstanding. You have four Top Ten players battling it out. They're all great competitors. Klara never gives up (neither does Julia). She loves the big matches and she really felt that if it got to a third set she could prevail." As for Hauger, Augustus said, "Olivia's great. She loves to compete, she works really hard, she's a great teammate. It's exciting, because she's just starting out and she's already so comfortable in this setting."

In the first matches of the day, #2 seed University of Georgia beat the University of Michigan 4-1 and #3 seed University of North Carolina beat Louisiana State University by the same score. Both winning teams won the doubles point 2-0.

UNC got big wins by Hayley Carter at #1 (6-1 6-1 over Joana Vale Costa) and by Whitney Kay at #2 (6-3 6-1 over Jessica Golovin) to take a 3-0 lead and put all the pressure on the Tigers. LSU's Skyler Kuykendall rescued a point at #3 singles with a 6-2 6-4 win over Kate Vialle, and things were heating up at #4, where LSU's Ryann Foster came back to force a third set against Jessie Aney, and at #5, where Abigail Owens was a game away from doing the same against UNC's Marika Akkerman.

It was at #6 where the clinch came for UNC. Freshman Chloe Ouellet-Pizer had a see-saw match against senior Ella Taylor (who clinched LSU's first round match). The Tarheel went up 5*-0 and had deciding point/set point in the first set only to see her lead nearly evaporate, but she served it out for 6-4. In the second, she went down 1*-4 but won the final 5 games of the match to get her first college clinch.

UNC head coach Brian Kalbas was impressed by Ouellet-Pizer's ability to close out her first clinch, and demurred at the suggestion a third set would provide an occasion to see how she would react to that situation. "I think there's going to be plenty of opportunities for that. I think at this stage at this tournament, you want to stay fresh and get off the court as quickly as you can."

Ouellet-Pizer, who hails from Chapel Hill, said, "It felt amazing. I really didn't think I was going to get [the opportunity to clinch], because I was down 1-4 in the second, but our coach always tells us to believe that you're going to be the last match on, that you're going to be the clinching match, so that helped me today."

LSU co-head coach Julia Sell took positives from the close loss. "I think we're capable of being a Top 5 team and beating a Top 5 team," she said.

Against Georgia, Michigan got its only point at #2 singles, where #19 Brienne Minor had a convincing 6-3 6-1 win over #22 Caroline Brinson. Michigan also was looking good at #1 where #17 Ronit Yurovsky fought back against #12 Ellen Perez to take their match to a third set. But Georgia showed its strength lower down in the line-up: the Wolverines didn't win a set at 3, 4, 5, or 6. Sophomore Kennedy Shaffer (#109) got the clinch at #3 with a 6-2 6-4 win over #107 Kate Fahey.

North Carolina and Georgia will have a rematch of last year's ITA Indoors title match. UNC won the 2015 edition of the competition, but key players from that match are gone -- UNC lost both the national singles champion Jamie Loeb and last year's clinching player, senior Caroline Price, while UGA graduated its best player in Lauren Herring.

Both Kalbas and Georgia coach Jeff Wallace said they were looking forward to the rematch. It's a safe bet that the same can be said for fans of women's college tennis everywhere.
February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 3 seed North Carolina 4, LSU 1
1. Hayley Carter (NC) def. Joana Vale Costa (LSU) 6-1, 6-1
2. Whitney Kay (NC) def. Jessica Golovin (LSU) 6-3, 6-1
3. Skylar Kuykendall (LSU) def. Kate Vialle (NC) 6-2, 6-4
4. Ryann Foster (LSU) vs. Jessie Aney (NC) 3-6, 6-2, 1-2, unfinished
5. Abigail Owens (LSU) vs. Marika Akkerman (NC) 3-6, 6-5, unfinished
6. Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Ella Taylor (LSU) 6-4, 6-4
1. Joana Vale Costa/Ryann Foster (LSU) vs. Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) 5-4, unfinished
2. Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle (NC) def. Skylar Kuykendall/Abigail Owens (LSU) 6-0
3. Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Skylar Holloway/Ella Taylor (LSU) 6-3
Match Notes:
North Carolina 8-0; National ranking #5
LSU 6-0; National ranking #18
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (2,1,3,6)

February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 2 seed Georgia 4,  Michigan 1
1. #17 Ronit Yurovsky (MICH) vs. #12 Ellen Perez (UGA) 2-6, 6-4, 1-1, unfinished
2. #19 Brienne Minor (MICH) def. #22 Caroline Brinson (UGA) 6-3, 6-1
3. #109 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. #107 Kate Fahey (MICH) 6-2, 6-4
4. #82 Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. Mira Ruder-Hook (MICH) 6-2, 6-3
5. Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Alex Najarian (MICH) 6-4, 6-4
6. Teona Velehorschi (MICH) vs. Laura Patterson (UGA) 5-7, 2-3, unfinished
1. Mira Ruder-Hook/Brienne Minor (MICH) vs. #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould (UGA) 4-5, unfinished
2. Silvia Garcia/Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. Ronit Yurovsky/Kate Fahey (MICH) 6-3
3. Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Kara Hall/Alex Najarian (MICH) 6-2
Match Notes:
Georgia 4-0; National ranking #2
Michigan 3-1; National ranking #12
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (2,4,5,3)

February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 4 seed California 4, Virginia 1
1. #4 Danielle Collins (VA) def. #5 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 6-3, 6-1
2. #10 Klara Fabikova (CAL) vs. #8 Julia Elbaba (VA) 3-6, 6-5, unfinished
3. Lynn Chi (CAL) vs. #30 Stephanie Nauta (VA) 7-6 (7-1), 4-4, unfinished
4. Denise Starr (CAL) def. Victoria Olivarez (VA) 6-0, 3-6, 6-3
5. #81 Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Meghan Kelley (VA) 6-4, 6-4
6. Karla Popovic (CAL) def. Taylor Wingo (VA) 6-0, 6-1
1. #3 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) def. Danielle Collins/Meghan Kelley (VA) 6-2
2. #43 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) vs. Julia Elbaba/Stephanie Nauta (VA) 5-2, unfinished
3. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) def. Victoria Olivarez/Erica Susi (VA) 6-3
Match Notes:
Virginia 4-1; National ranking #7
California 3-0; National ranking #6
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (6,1,5,4)

February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 8 seed Ohio State 4, No. 1 seed Vanderbilt 3
1. #2 Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. #24 Sydney Campbell (VANDY) 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
2. #15 Frances Altick (VANDY) def. Gabriella De Santis (OSU) 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
3. #33 Astra Sharma (VANDY) def. Anna Sanford (OSU) 6-2, 6-2
4. Miho Kowase (OSU) def. Courtney Colton (VANDY) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
5. Ferny Angeles Paz (OSU) def. Georgina Sellyn (VANDY) 6-1, 7-6 (13-11)
6. Olivia Sneed (OSU) def. Ellie Yates (VANDY) 6-0, 6-3

1. #11 Courtney Colton/Sydney Campbell (VANDY) def. #6 Anna Sanford/Miho Kowase (OSU) 7-5
2. Astra Sharma/Ellie Yates (VANDY) def. Gabriella De Santis/Ferny Angeles Paz (OSU) 6-2
3. Olivia Sneed/Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Frances Altick/Fernanda Contreras (VANDY) 6-2

Match Notes:
Ohio State 7-0; National ranking #16
Vanderbilt 4-1; National ranking #1
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (3,6,5,1,2,4)

At the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, wild card Robin Anderson won her first match of the week against a player older than she was.  The 22-year-old from New Jersey, who graduated from UCLA last spring, beat 25-year-old Irina Falconi 6-3, 6-4 in tonight's feature match at the Greater Midland Tennis Center.

I wrote quite a bit about 2015 NCAA champion Jamie Loeb's struggles in the past six months, but although ITA Player of the Year Anderson had an excellent fall on the Pro Circuit, ending with a semifinal appearance at the $50,000 event in Scottsdale, she had started this year without a win.  At the three $25,000 tournaments on Florida clay, Anderson lost in the first round to the above mentioned Di Lorenzo, Lauren Embree and Chiara Scholl.

Her first win of the year came this week in Midland, against 16-year-old Michaela Gordon; her second was over 16-year-old CiCi Bellis, and her third, a nearly three-hour marathon Friday, saw her outlast 17-year-old Alexandra Sanford.

In her meeting with the third-seeded Falconi, Anderson showed no fatigue from the match with Sanford, who has a completely different game style from Falconi.  In place of the raw power Sanford possesses, Falconi maneuvers for her winners, but that change of pace didn't bother Anderson. She made few errors, played her usual stellar defense and also struck the ball aggressively, especially with her backhand, which has never been her strength.  She broke Falconi to take a 4-2 lead in the first set, but gave the break right back. Another break gave Anderson a chance to serve out the set and she did.

Falconi was down a set and an early break to Loeb in Friday night's quarterfinal, so there was no sense that she was out of the match when she was broken in the first game. Right on cue, Falconi got the break back, but she lost the next service game too, and this time Anderson did not waiver. She faced no break points after the second game of the second set and converted her second match point after taking a 40-0 lead.

The win over Falconi, ranked 76th, is Anderson's best, although she has another WTA Top 100 victory on her record, over Virginie Razzano of France, then No. 92, in August of 2013.

Anderson's opponent in the final will be Naomi Broady of Great Britain, who spoiled an all-American final with a 7-6(5), 6-2 win over Shelby Rogers Saturday afternoon.

Anderson and Broady have played three times, with Broady winning back in 2011, Anderson winning in 2013, and Broady taking the title at the $25,000 Landisville event last August with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over Anderson.

Broady will be aiming for two titles on Sunday, as she and Rogers have reached the doubles final.  Their opponents will be Bellis and 17-year-old Ingrid Neel,  a wild card team, who defeated No. 3 seeds Nicole Gibbs and Taylor Townsend 3-6, 6-3, 10-6.

An American was also assured of winning the doubles title at the $100,000 Dallas Challenger, and it was the wild card team that came out ahead.  Nick Meister and Eric Quigley took the doubles championship, beating No. 2 seeds Dean O'Brien of South Africa and Sekou Bangoura 6-1, 6-1 in the final.  The singles final, was an all-British affair, with No. 2 seed Kyle Edmund against Dan Evans.

In the qualifying for the Memphis Open, Michael Mmoh defeated Dennis Novikov 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to Sunday's final round of qualifying against Bjorn Fratangelo.  Jared Donaldson downed Tennys Sandgren 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 and will play James McGee of Ireland in the final round of qualifying.

And in a followup to the Chicago Tribune article earlier in the week saying Australian Open tournament director was a candidate for the position of Athletic Director at the University of Illinois, here is Tiley himself denying that in this article from the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette.