Feb. 11, 2012
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Despite a valiant comeback to win the doubles point for the eighth time in as many matches, No. 17 Tennessee (5-3) saw its five-match winning streak snapped by No. 16 USC, 4-1, in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship quarterfinals on Saturday at the Boar's Head Sports Club.
After the Lady Vols took a 1-0 lead in doubles, USC reeled off four victories in singles to advance to the semifinals, all of which came from undefeated Trojans that entered the contest with a combined 23-0 record.
"You need these kinds of matches," co-head coach Mike Patrick said of his young team. "You have to have those to get better and they got them. We played a great doubles point against a team that has some really good players. It was a great experience against a great team."
UT raced out to a quick start in doubles on all three courts, but the Trojans didn't go quietly.
Christian and Santamaria had set point, but Pluskota and Williams held serve and stormed back to win for the sixth time in seven tries, 9-7. The Tennessee tandem has now knocked off two top-five pairings, also defeating No. 5 Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews of Notre Dame, 8-4, earlier this season.
With each team claiming a doubles win, the point would be decided by court two. Leading 6-5 at the time over Danielle Lao and Ali Ramos, Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti won their 11th straight contest together, 8-6, to clinch the doubles point.
The 18th-ranked tandem trailed 5-4 previously, and was tied at six before holding serve and then breaking to win. It marked the sixth time in eight matches that the duo has clinched the opening point for UT.
"Caitlyn and Natalie have been dinged up, competed against the best in the country and beaten some of the best in the country," Patrick said. "They're doing a tremendous job. Our two team came against another good opponent tonight; Back-and-forth, competing, fighting, putting everything on the line, playing under pressure and did a great job. We're proud of our teams. They work hard, they do a great job and we can compete with anybody."
USC, with four nationally-ranked players in its lineup - including two in the Top 20 - stole the momentum from there.
The Trojans came out swinging, taking the first set on five of six courts - court one being the exception. An opposite story from doubles, however, USC held on.
No. 18 Santamaria handed Szekely her first loss of the dual-match season, winning 6-2, 6-1 to knot the score at one.
No. 99 Christian gave USC a 2-1 lead with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Williams, marking the first time Tennessee had trailed since Jan. 22 against North Carolina. Boren, who had won five straight entering Saturday, led early in each set, before Lao recovered and handed the Laguna Niguel, Calif., native her first career loss from the No. 2 position (5-1).
Needing to close out one of three matches for the win, USC found the clinching point on court five, where Gabriella DeSimone snapped Toti's four-match winning streak with a 6-4, 6-4 decision.
"We learned a lot," Patrick said. "Coming into this tournament, we knew we had to some things to do. We beat a good team and we lost to a good team. Hopefully, we'll take the lessons we learned tonight, build off that and become better."
Tennessee will play in the consolation bracket on Sunday against No. 12 Northwestern at 3:30 p.m. ET in an attempt to start a new winning streak. The Wildcats lost to second-seeded and fourth-ranked UCLA, 4-0, in Saturday's quarterfinal after opening the tournament with a 4-2 win over No. 9 Virginia.
ITA NATIONAL TEAM INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS - QUARTERFINALS
#16 USC 4, #17 Tennessee 1
1. #24 Natalie Pluskota (UT) vs. #19 Zoe Scandalis (USC) 6-3, 4-6, 2-1 DNF
2. #42 Danielle Lao (USC) def. #27 Brynn Boren (UT) 6-3, 6-4
3. #18 Sabrina Santamaria (USC) def. #59 Kata Szekely (UT) 6-2, 6-1
4. #99 Kaitlyn Christian (USC) def. Caitlyn Williams (UT) 6-0, 6-0
5. Gabriella DeSimone (USC) def. Sarah Toti (UT) 6-4, 6-4
6. Joanna Henderson (UT) vs. Ali Ramos (USC) 4-6, 5-4 DNF
1. Natalie Pluskota/Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. #3 Kaitlyn Christian/Sabrina Santamaria (USC) 9-7
2. #18 Brynn Boren/Sarah Toti (UT) def. Danielle Lao/Ali Ramos (USC) 8-6
3. Valeria Pulido/Zoe Scandalis (USC) def. Kata Szekely/Joanna Henderson (UT) 8-5
Order of finish: Doubles (3, 1, 2); Singles (3, 4, 2, 5)