May 30, 2010
By Donnie Conley, Media Relations Student Assistant
They are now one win away from making that dream a reality.
Whoriskey and Pluskota, the nation's No. 1 team, advanced to the finals of the 2010 NCAA Doubles Championships with a 6-1, 7-6 (11) victory over No. 8 Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist of Georgia on Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
"We got off to a great start and had the momentum," Tennessee co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick. "The crowd for Georgia is merciless and very supportive. I think it was tough trying to focus during the second set and they did a good job focusing and getting back into it."
UT cruised to a 6-1 victory in the first set. The second frame was much more highly contested. Each team had two service breaks of its opponent, the biggest recorded by the Big Orange while trailing 6-5.
In Whoriskey's mind, getting to a tiebreaker and potentially avoiding a third set was critical.
"We knew if we didn't break, then the momentum would swing to their side," the East Sandwich, Mass. native said. "We were fortunate to come up with the big point."
With things evened up at 6-6, a grueling tiebreaker ensued. For the second straight day, Tennessee opened up a 6-3 lead before squandering triple match point. UT also had two more chances before finally putting it away on the sixth match point, taking the tiebreaker 13-11.
"Gullickson and Gilchrist penetrate the ball so well and hit it so hard," Hahn-Patrick said. "You want to go forward and put pressure on them, but when the match gets tight, it's easy to get in the habit of trying to block the ball instead of using its pace to your advantage. Caitlin and Natalie were able to fight through and did a great job handling the pressure."
This was the first-ever victory for Whoriskey and Pluskota against the UGA duo in three tries. Georgia had a good crowd in attendance on its home court. However, Whoriskey felt like having a strong first set helped take the audience out of it.
"In the first set, I didn't hear a word from the fans," Whoriskey said. "I think (Georgia) kind started off slow and didn't have any big points to fire up the crowd. All we heard were our fans. Georgia came back with some good shots in the second set and got the crowd more involved."
The Lady Vol tandem will advance to face No. 2-ranked Hillary Barte and Lindsay Burdette of Stanford, who cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 4-rated Andrea Remynse and Yasmine Schnack of UCLA on Sunday.
The final match is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET Monday.
There is plenty of history between Whoriskey and Pluskota and the Stanford duo. Last season, Barte and Burdette eliminated the Lady Vols in the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships with a gut-wrenching victory in a third-set tiebreaker. The two teams have met up twice this season, splitting the meetings.
Whoriskey/Pluskota took an 8-4 quarterfinal victory from the Cardinal en route to winning the 2009 ITA All-American Doubles Championship. Barte and Burdette avenged the defeat with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4-0) a month later in the finals of ITA National Indoor Tournament.
That familiarity will play a big role in preparation for both sides.
"Both teams play similar styles," Whoriskey said. "We both like to make big shots and be aggressive at the net. We know each others' strengths and weaknesses. Whoever can hold serve and get a big break or hit a big shot will come out on top. Hopefully, that's us."
Live video and results of the finals match will be available at NCAA.com. A live blog will be available on UTLadyVols.com
Fans are reminded to follow the Lady Vols on Twitter at www.twitter.com/UTLadyVols
NCAA DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
No. 1 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. No. 8 Chelsey Gullickson/Nadja Gilchrist (UGA), 6-1, 7-6 (11)