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Friday, February 23, 2024

Blue Chip Bowers Chooses Longhorns; No. 3 Stanford Survives No. 4 Texas; Top Four Seeds Advance to Semifinals at ITA D-III Men's Team Indoor; Revised D-I Team Rankings; Caldwell, Hoo Claim First ITF Junior Circuit Titles

Ashton Bowers was released from her National Letter of Intent after Caroline Lilley was fired from the head coaching position last month, and she recently announced a commitment to attend the University of Texas this fall, joining good friend Maya Joint and a third blue chip, Ariana Pursoo. Bowers spoke with Rhiannon Potkey of Tennis Recruiting Network about the extremely unusual situation she found herself in, going through the recruiting process twice, more than 18 months apart.

Bowers' new team came agonizingly close to a huge road victory today, with the No. 4 Longhorns falling to No. 3 Stanford 4-3 in a match that took nearly four hours to complete. Texas took the doubles point with little trouble at lines 1 and 3, while Stanford took line 2. Texas soon had a 2-0 lead with Malika Rapolu posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Alexandra Yepifanova at line 3, but Stanford countered with straight-sets wins by Connie Ma at line 2 and Katherine Hui at line 5. 

The score stayed at 2-2 for a long time, but Angelica Blake eventually put Stanford ahead with a 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 decision over Sabina Zeynalova at line 1. Stanford's Alexis Blokhina had an opportunity to finish off Texas in her match with Charlotte Chavatipon at line 4, but Chavatipon won the second set tiebreaker. Meanwhile, Valencia Xu had forced a third set in her match with Texas's Vivian Ovrootsky at line 6, so Stanford had the advantage, with two matches left and Texas needing them both.

Stanford's advantage disappeared when Ovrootsky defeated Xu 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, and Chavatipon, trailing 4-1 in the third set, got back on serve at 3-4. She had two points to level the third set, but Blokhina blasted a forehand pass on the deciding point to take a 5-3 lead. Blokhina fell behind 15-40, but got a couple of forehands to find their mark to get to a deciding point/match point. A defensive lob close to the far sideline was called out by Chavatipon and the chair confirmed the call, but the Stanford coaches were not happy about it and let the chair hear their complaints.

Serving down 4-5, Chavatipon had a 40-15 lead, two points later there was another deciding point/match point and again Chavatipon won it, with a forehand winner. Despite the pressure of the last match on with the score 5-5 in the third, both women were staying aggressive, with depth and pace. Blokhina held to go up 6-5, and in the final game Chavatipon couldn't get to a deciding point after losing a point on yet another close call at 30-all. At 30-40 Chavatipon sent a forehand long, and Stanford had survived. 

It's the fifth straight win for the Cardinal over Texas.
Next up for the ITA's Team Indoor Championships is men's Division III, which began today at Top Seed Tennis in Nicholasville Kentucky. Top seed Case Western had its hands full with No. 8 seed Chicago, but came away with a 4-3 victory. It was actually 4-1 at the clinch, with all these scores producing a double take before I remembered that D-III has adopted the D-I scoring format this year. Sort of. All three doubles matches were played out, with Case taking all three, but just for one point, not the three points they would have gotten in previous years. In all D-I competition, matches are abandoned once a team gets two of the three sets in doubles. Also, while Division I does play out matches post-clinch, it is never done at the Team Indoor championships, but all six singles were played to conclusion, with one using a match tiebreaker for a third set.
Nicholasville KY
February 23, 2024
Quarterfinal results:

Case Western[1] 4, Chicago[8] 3
Washington St Louis[4] 4,  Sewanee[5] 3
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps[2] 5, Trinity[7] 2
Emory[3] 6, Gustavus Adolphus[6] 1

For more on today's quarterfinal matches see the ITA recap.

In other ITA news, the ranking errors I mentioned yesterday have led to a new set of rankings, corrected and republished today. There was no change to the men's top 10, but in the women's top 10, USC went from 9 to 5, NC State fell from 5 to 6, and Virginia fell from 6 to 9. I'm sure there are many other changes outside the Top 10.

The ITF J30 in Eau Claire Wisconsin concluded today with 14-year-old Carrie-Ann Hoo and 16-year-old Simon Caldwell earning their first ITF Junior Circuit titles. Caldwell's title was actually his second on the ITF Junior Circuit, with his first coming yesterday in doubles. No. 3 seed Caldwell, a quarterfinalist at the National 16s in Kalamazoo last year, did not lose a set in his five victories, beating unseeded Lukas Phimvongsa 6-3, 6-3 in this morning's final. Caldwell, who is from Grand Rapids Michigan, partnered with Zachary Cohen in doubles with the top seeds defeating unseeded Arnav Bhandari and Adrian Treacy 6-2, 6-3 in the final. 

Hoo defeated Karlin Schock 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(0) in the final between unseeded girls; the New Yorker won three of her five matches in three-sets. 

In the girls doubles final, unseeded Isabelle DeLuccia and Kaya Moe took the title, beating No. 4 seeds Ciara Harding and Ella Olofson 6-2, 6-2. All four finals were contested by Americans, which is not unusual for the host country in a J30 event.