Vilmarie Castellvi was victorious in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, over Vanderbilt's Sarah Riske
May 15, 2003
The old saying "The third time's a charm" proved to be correct today in Gainesville, Fla., in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships. The No. 7-seeded University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers were pitted against No. 10 seed Vanderbilt for the third time this season, with UT claiming the two previous outings. This time, however, their intrastate rivals came out on top in another marathon match in the all-time series, 4-3, where the doubles point proved to be the difference. Tennessee ended the season with a 22-7 record, its sixth 20-win campaign in seven years. Vanderbilt, now 21-5, will face the winner of the Florida-Arizona State matchup tomorrow at 10 a.m. on the Stadium Courts at Ring Tennis Complex.
Unlike the first two meetings, Vanderbilt was able to snatch the doubles point from the Lady Vols. Its first victory occurred at one doubles, where the third-ranked duo of Sarah Riske and Aleke Tsoubanos upended UT's No. 5-ranked combo of senior Vilmarie Castellvi and freshman Melissa Schaub, 8-3. It was Castellvi and Schaub's second-straight loss to the Vandy tandem.
Tennessee responded with a win at the No. 2 hole thanks to senior Crystal Cleveland and rookie Sabita Maharaj's 8-6 decision over 37th-rated Audra Falk and Kelly Schmandt. The win upped the team's record on the year to 16-3 in dual match play and 2-0 at the position in the NCAA Tournament.
As the focus shifted to court three, the Orange and White's pair of junior Tammy Encina and sophomore Breanna Kray found themselves trailing Annie Menees and Kori Scott, 7-4. UT managed to break Menees' serve to set up a thrilling 13th game in which the Lady Vols managed to save three match points.
With Encina serving at 30-40, Kray used her touch at the net to place a picture perfect drop shot out of the reach of both Scott and Menees. During the six deuces that ensued, Encina put her forehand to work, using a lob and a lightning bolt down the line to save two more match points. Encina closed the game out with an ace down the service box to close the gap to 7-6.
The Lady Volunteers, however, could not pull through in the following game on Scott's serve. Some critical errors hurt the Orange and White, and Vanderbilt went on to win four of the next five rallies to put the 'Dores ahead, 1-0.
Castellvi, the nation's No. 1-ranked player, knotted the match up at 1-1 after she defeated No. 17 Riske at the top slot for the third time this year in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. With the victory, Castellvi earned her 40th win of the season, marking her second consecutive campaign with at least 40 triumphs. The Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native also moved to 17-1 this year versus opponents ranked in the Top 25 and extended her winning streak to 19 matches.
Vandy regained the lead, 2-1, after Falk registered a 6-3, 6-3 win over Schaub at No. 4 singles. The loss ended Schaub's record for the year at 22-18 and 16-11 in dual matches.
The No. 59-tabbed Encina deadlocked the match once again at two apiece when she took down No. 80 Tsoubanos at two singles, 6-4, 6-2. It was the Miami Beach, Fla., native's third conquest of Tsoubanos this year. Encina improved to 24-14 with the victory and grabbed her sixth-straight win over a ranked foe in the process.
The Commodores struck back at the No. 5 spot, where the 122nd-rated Ashley Schellhas ousted Maharaj in a three-setter, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. It was Maharaj's first loss in the NCAA Tournament and ended her mark on the year at 16-14.
Trailing 3-2, the Big Orange got a lift at six singles when sophomore Ashley Robards bounced back from a 6-4 setback in the first frame to defeat Menees. A native of Henderson, Ky., Robards breezed through the second and third sets, 6-1, 6-2. She concluded her second year with UT at 21-13, including a 16-6 showing in dual matches.
The lone match that remained was on court three, where No. 51 Cleveland had rebounded from a dismal 6-0 performance versus Schmandt in the first set with a 6-3 victory in the second. The contest remained on serve after seven games with Cleveland leading, 4-3, at the changeover.
In the following game, Schmandt followed suit once again by holding serve after a grueling game. Cleveland fell behind in the next game, 15-40, but managed to save one game point before her opponent claimed the 5-4 edge. Although Schmandt would have the opportunity to serve things out, the Tennessee faithful remained behind Cleveland, and rightfully so, as she entered the match with a 7-1 record in three sets this season.
The tenth round of the set looked bleak for the Orange and White after Schmandt went up quickly by a 40-0 count, but Cleveland would not go away quietly. The Delray Beach, Fla., native continued to grind and run down balls, constantly forcing Schmandt to hit one more shot. Cleveland was able to extend the game to deuce, but the next two rallies belonged to Vanderbilt, as did the match.
"Crystal's nerves made it more of a grueling match for her physically, and the same for Kelly too," said UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick. "I thought towards the end it was starting to become more of a mental battle than a physical one. Really, I did not feel like it was as hot or humid as it has been here in the past.
"I think score-wise, it looked like they got off to a little bit of a slower start. I don't feel so much that our team got off to a slower start as I did feel that Vandy came out more ready to play."
Castellvi, Cleveland, Encina and Schaub will now await the draw for the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, which are scheduled to be released on May 17. With Castellvi, Cleveland and Encina in the single tourney, UT established a new school record for participants in one year. Castellvi and Schaub will also team up for the doubles as well. The singles tournament begins on May 19, while the doubles kicks off the next day. Both championship matches will be contested on May 24. The title bouts will be aired on ESPN2 on May 25 at 2 p.m.
Final Score: #7 Tennessee (22-7) 3, #10 Vanderbilt (21-5) 4
|No. 1||#1 Vilmarie Castellvi (UT) def. #17 Sarah Riske (VU)||6-1, 6-2|
|No. 2||#59 Tammy Encina (UT) def. #80 Aleke Tsoubanos (VU)||6-4, 6-2|
|No. 3||Kelly Schmandt (VU) def. #51 Crystal Cleveland (UT)||6-0, 3-6, 6-4|
|No. 4||Audra Falk (VU) def. Melissa Schaub (UT)||6-3, 6-3|
|No. 5||#122 Ashley Schellhas (VU) def. Sabita Maharaj (UT)||6-3, 3-6, 6-2|
|No. 6||Ashley Robards (UT) def. Annie Menees (VU)||4-6, 6-1, 6-2|
|Order of Finish: 1, 4, 2, 5, 6, 3*|
|No. 1||#3 Riske/Tsoubanos (VU) def. #5 Castellvi/Schaub (UT)||8-3|
|No. 2||Cleveland/Maharaj (UT) def. #37 Falk/Schmandt (VU)||8-6|
|No. 3||Menees/Kori Scott (VU) def. Encina/Breanna Kray (UT)||8-6|
|Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3*|
* clinching point