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Friday, May 20, 2022

All Tough Battles, but Top Four Seeds Advance to Saturday's Women's NCAA Division I Semifinals

The men delivered in Thursday's quarterfinals, with three underdogs claiming victories in tense battles, both outdoors and indoors. Not to be outdone, the women also played nothing but compelling matches Friday, and although the favorites won them all, the margins were razor thin.

Top seed North Carolina defeated No. 8 seed Pepperdine 4-3, with the Waves nearly overcoming some of the worse luck of the tournament. Taisiya Pachkalev suffered a serious knee injury in the doubles and had to retire, which gave the Tar Heels the point, and because she was unable to play at her line 4 singles spot, the three players below her moved up a spot. 

But Pepperdine came out strong in singles, taking four first sets to put the pressure squarely on North Carolina. A quick win at line 1 for Janice Tjen and another fast one by Lisa Zaar at line three gave Pepperdine the lead for the first time, but Elizabeth Scotty drew North Carolina even with a victory at line 2.

So both teams needed two of the bottom three spots, all of which were now early in the third sets, as North Carolina's Carson Tanguilig and Anika Yarlagadda had come back at lines 5 and 6, and Pepperdine's Savannah Broadus had forced a third at 4.

Tanguilig made it 3-2 with a win over Vicky Flores, Broadus handed Fiona Crawley a rare loss, so the match came down to  line 6: Yarlagadda and Nikki Redelijk. Redelijk, who had not played in the Waves three previous NCAA wins with Pachkaleva in the lineup, fell behind early in the third and couldn't find a path to a comeback, with Yarlagadda taking the match 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

North Carolina had lost to Pepperdine 4-3 in last year's semifinals.

NCAA D-I Women's Team Quarterfinals
May 20, 2022
Champaign IL

North Carolina[1] d. Pepperdine[8] 4-3

1. Fiona Crawley/Elizabeth Scotty(UNC) d. Lisa Zaar/Victoria Flores 6-1
2. Alle Sanford/Carson Tanguilig(UNC) v Savannah Broadus/Janice Tjen(Pepperdine) 4-3, unfinished
3. Cameron Morra/Reilly Tran(UNC) d. Taisiya Pachkaleva/Shiori Fukuda(Pepperdine) 4-1 ret, injury

Order of Finish: 1,3

1. Janice Tjen(Pepperdine) d. Cameron Morra(UNC) 6-1, 6-3
2. Elizabeth Scotty(UNC) d. Shiori Fukuda(Pepperdine) 6-3, 6-4
3. Lisa Zaar(Pepperdine) d. Reilly Tran(UNC) 6-1, 6-2
4. Savannah Broadus(Pepperdine) d. Fiona Crawley(UNC) 3-6, 6-2, 6-3
5. Carson Tanguilig(UNC) d. Victoria Flores(Pepperdine) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
6. Anika Yarlagadda(UNC) d. Nikki Redelijk(Pepperdine) 2-6, 6-3, 6-2

Order of Finish: 1,3,2,5,4,6

In the day's second quarterfinal, also played indoors, No. 4 Texas held off No. 5 Virginia 4-2, despite winning only three games at lines 1 and 2 in singles. The defending champion Longhorns did have the doubles point, so when Virginia's Emma Navarro and Natasha Subhash cruised to victories in the top two spots, Texas had a little cushion and claimed the three first sets that could, and ultimately did, suffice.

With the highly anticipated match between No. 1 Emma Navarro and No. 2 Peyton Stearns not competitive, the drama had to come from the bottom of the lineup. After Texas's Charlotte Chavatipon tied it at 2 with a win at line 4, the last three matches were battles, but only one, at line 6, split. Sabina Zeynalova gave Texas its third point with a late break at line 3 and Allura Zamarripa clinched it with a win over Hibah Shaikh at line 5.

Texas[4] d. Virginia[5] 4-2

1. Emma Navarro/Hibah Shaikh(Virginia) d. Peyton Stearns/Allura Zamarripa(Texas) 6-2
2. Charlotte Chavatipon/Kylie Collins(Texas) d. Elaine Chervinsky/Natasha Subhash(Virginia) 6-3
3. Sabina Zeynalova/Bella Zamarripa(Texas) d. Sofia Munera/Amber O'Dell(Virginia) 6-3

Order of Finish: 1,3,2

1. Emma Navarro(Virginia) d. Peyton Stearns(Texas) 6-1, 6-0
2. Natasha Subhash(Virginia) d. Kylie Collins(Texas) 6-2, 6-0
3. Sabina Zeynalova(Texas) d. Elaine Chervinsky(Virginia) 6-4, 7-5
4. Charlotte Chavatipon(Texas) d. Sofia Munera(Virginia) 6-4, 6-1
5. Allura Zamarripa(Texas) d. Hibah Shaikh(Virginia) 7-5, 6-4
6. Sara Ziodato(Virginia) v. Vivian Ovrootsky(Texas) 6-2, 5-7, 3-2, unfinished

Order of Finish: 1,2,4,3,5

The match between No. 2 seed Oklahoma and No. 7 seed Texas A&M also was played indoors, with strong winds, rather than rain, the primary reason for the adjustment in the day's schedule.

Texas A&M lost the doubles for just the third time this season, but like Pepperdine, the Aggies came out strong in singles, taking five first sets. Needing four of those, they couldn't afford to lose more than one of those matches, and Oklahoma's push was certain to come at some point. 

Texas A&M took the lead by closing out wins from Mary Stoiana at line 3 and Jayci Goldsmith at line 4. Oklahoma responded with Layne Sleeth's win at line 1, then Texas A&M took the lead with a win from Gianna Pielet at line 5. Texas A&M had won the first sets in the two matches remaining at line 2 with Tatiana Makarova and line Jeanette Mireles at line 6, but Carmen Corley and Emma Staker fought back. Corley made it 3-3 with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Makarova, so all eyes turned to line 6, where Staker had taken a 3-1 lead in the third set. She couldn't hold it, losing a deciding point on her serve to make it 3-3, but the freshman from Tulsa immediately broke on a deciding point to take a 4-3 lead and held for 5-3. The level of play from both freshmen was outstanding throughout, under any circumstances, let along the pressure of deciding a spot in the Final Four, and they continued to play both great offense and great defense, with long points the norm. Mireles held for 5-4, forcing Staker to serve it out. Mireles saved the first match point with a sizzling forehand winner, but couldn't save the second, netting a backhand to end the four hour and nine minute contest.

Oklahoma[2] d. Texas A&M[7] 4-3

1. Ivana Corley/Carmen Corley(Oklahoma) d. Jayci Goldsmith/Tatiana Makarova(Texas A&M) 6-3
2. Carson Branstine/Mary Stoiana(Texas A&M) d. Alexandra Pisareva/Layne Sleeth(Oklahoma) 6-3
3. Dana Guzman/Emma Staker(Oklahoma) d. Renee McBryde/Gianna Pielet(Texas A&M) 7-5

Order of Finish: 1,2,3

1. Layne Sleeth(Oklahoma) d. Carson Branstine(Texas A&M) 6-2, 6-3
2. Carmen Corley(Oklahoma) d. Tatiana Makarova(Texas A&M) 3-6, 6-2, 6-3
3. Mary Stoiana(Texas A&M) d. Ivana Corley(Oklahoma) 6-2, 6-1
4. Jayci Goldsmith(Texas A&M) d. Dana Guzman(Oklahoma) 6-4, 6-2
5. Gianna Pielet(Texas A&M) d. Alexandra Pisareva(Oklahoma) 6-2, 6-3
6. Emma Staker(Oklahoma) d. Jeanette Mireles(Texas A&M) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

Order of Finish: 3,4,1,5,2,6

While that match was coming to its dramatic conclusion, the final quarterfinal between No. 3 Duke and No. 6 North Carolina State began outdoors. The winds had subsided enough to allow outdoor play and given the nearly four-hour duration of Duke's 4-3 win, it was fortunate that was possible.

Duke, who beat NC State 4-3 in Raleigh early this spring, took the doubles point from the Wolfpack, which they did not do in that previous meeting. As with the other teams who dropped the doubles point today, NC State started strong in singles, taking four first sets, and Priska Nugroho put them on the board with a quick victory at line 3. But the top of Duke's lineup asserted itself, with Georgia Drummy winning at line 2 and Chloe Beck coming back from a set down to post a win at the top spot. At 3-1 Duke, there was no clear path for either team, and the 4, 5 and 6 spots all went to third sets. NC State's Rajecki closed the gap to 3-2 with a comeback win at line 5, but they still needed the last two matches on court. Duke's Kelly Chen went up early over Nell Miller in the third set at line 4, and Blue Devil Eliza Omirou, who had not played in the previous two NCAA matches, was up several times in the third set at line 6, including serving for the match at 5-4 and 6-5.  But Omirou couldn't close out Sophie Abrams, sending that match to a tiebreaker, while Chen saw four match points go begging serving for it at 5-1 in the third against Miller.

Chen managed to break Miller to secure the win, but not before Abrams had secured the Wolfpack's third point in a tiebreaker.

Duke will be seeking revenge over Oklahoma, who traveled to Durham for Kickoff Weekend and beat the Blue Devils 4-2, keeping them from competing in the National Team Indoor Championships.

Duke[3] d. NC State[6] 4-3

1. Georgia Drummy/Karolina Berankova(Duke) d. Jaeda Daniel/Nell Miller(NC State) 6-4
2. Amelia Rajecki/Abigail Rencheli(NC State) d. Chloe Beck/Ellie Coleman(Duke) 6-2
3. Margaryta Bilokin/Eliza Omirou(Duke) d. Sophie Abrams/Priska Nugroho(NC State) 6-3

Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3

1. Chloe Beck(Duke) d. Jaeda Daniel(NC State) 1-6, 6-1, 6-4
2. Georgia Drummy(Duke) d. Abigail Rencheli(NC State) 7-5, 6-2
3. Priska Nugroho(NC State) d. Emma Jackson(Duke) 6-3, 6-2
4. Kelly Chen(Duke) v Nell Miller(NC State) 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-2
5. Amelia Rajecki(NC State) d. Ellie Coleman(Duke) 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2
6. Sophie Abrams(NC State) d. Eliza Omirou(Duke) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3) 

Order of Finish: 3,2,1,5,6,4

The schedule for Saturday is for all four semifinals, beginning with the men.

Ohio State[4] will play Kentucky[8] at 11 am EDT, with rain in the forecast. Tennessee[6] and Virginia[7] are scheduled for 2 pm.

North Carolina[1] and Texas are the 5 pm match, with Duke and Oklahoma scheduled for 8 pm.

See the Illinois tournament website for links to live streaming and scoring.