Women's tennis slams into championships

    The streak is still alive: The UCSD women’s tennis team advanced to the National Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships for the 16th consecutive season under head coach Liz LaPlante.

    Colin Young-Wolff
    Guardian

    The Tritons continued their impressive run by using a home-court advantage to first defeat University of Hawaii at Hilo 5-0 on Friday, then to take down Grand Canyon University 5-4 on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Western Regional.

    The four-team tournament opened with Grand Canyon upsetting UC Davis before UCSD even took the court against Hilo.

    The heavily favored Tritons did not disappoint the largest crowd of the season at the Northview Tennis Facility on Friday afternoon, sweeping the visitors from Hawaii 5-0.

    Anna MacMurdo
    Guardian

    In the opening doubles matches, the No. 1 team of Lyndsey Tadlock and Julie Westerman got an important win after breaking serve while tied 7-7, then holding for the 9-7 victory. At No. 2 doubles the team of Ashley O’Neil and Mary Hung was frustrated early, dropping the first two games before pulling things together for an 8-4 victory. At No. 3 doubles, Kristina Jansen and Jasmin Dao took an 8-5 victory to give the Tritons a 3-0 lead going into the singles matches.

    The home squad wasted little time reaching five points, the number needed to create an unassailable lead and end the meeting. Jansen at No. 5 singles was on the winning end of a 6-0, 6-4 decision, while Westerman took home a 6-2, 6-4 win at No 6 singles. Though officially only a 5-0 victory, the other Tritons were leading or tied in three of the four remaining matches.

    With their confidence buoyed by the impressive victory over Hilo, UCSD headed into the match with Grand Canyon knowing that only the victor would continue to play next weekend.

    UCSD won two previous meetings with Grand Canyon this season, both 5-4, and this match was to follow the same trend.

    The Tritons’ progression was thrown into doubt after starting the match by losing two of the three opening doubles matches.

    Tadlock and Westerman struggled mightily against GCU’s Nikita Bhardwaj and Robyn Jaeger, losing 3-8. Tadlock and Westerman’s aggressive style was easily contained by the visitors’ excellent ground strokes and flawless lobs.

    O’Neil and Hung nearly took the No. 2 match, but with the score 6-7, the Triton duo had its serve broken. GCU’s Christina Klokinis and Christine LiWanPo won 6-8.

    UCSD picked up its only doubles points at No. 3 when Jansen and Dao needed less than 30 minutes to shut out Karen Cervantez and Sarah Mitchell 8-0.

    The Tritons went into the singles knowing they had to win four of the six matches to advance. Led by the play of Tadlock and Hung, they were able to pull it off.

    UCSD took a short-lived lead after Westerman and Jansen picked up easy victories. Westerman improved to 24-0 in singles this season with a 6-0, 6-2 victory; Jansen went to 22-1 picking up a 6-1, 6-3 win.

    Jasmin Dao at No. 1 dropped her match 6-1, 6-4 after a late surge in the second set fell short. Down 1-4, Dao showed why she’s the No. 1 player as a freshman, picking up the next three sets before having her serve broken in game nine, then dropping the 10th.

    With the team score tied 3-3, O’Neil and Klokinis battled it out at No. 2. O’Neil dropped the first set 3-6 before winning a hard-fought second set with a 7-4 victory in the tiebreaker. O’Neil came out slow in the third and final set, dropping the first and last three games sandwiched by a futile comeback attempt.

    Now down 4-3, the Tritons needed to win the last two singles matches to advance. In both meetings this season, the outcome was decided by the final match, with Hung defeating Jaeger in a three-set thriller on March 29 to give the Tritons the California Collegiate Athletic Association regular season title.

    Tadlock then defeated LiWanPo in another three-set match on May 4 in the CCAA tournament semifinals. In the NCAA Regionals, however, the pressure was put on both players.

    Hung stepped up, first beating Jaeger in three sets. Hung won the first set after breaking Jaeger’s serve in the ninth set to give her the 6-4 edge.

    However, everything seemed to blow up in the second set with Hung falling 0-6 and momentum totally on Jaeger’s side. After a talk with assistant coach Emil Mihet, Hung regained energy in the third and final set, breaking serve in the first game on her way to a 6-2 victory to even the match.

    All eyes then turned to Tadlock and LiWanPo. As the only match still being played, both teams gathered on adjacent courts while the stands filled to watch the matchup. Tadlock had dropped the first set 4-6. In the second set Tadlock broke serve in the first game and held on to a 6-4 victory.

    Going into the third set, all the pressure was on each team’s lone seniors. The players exchanged breaks in the first two games, then proceeded to hold serve for the next four games. The two exchanged consecutive breaks again to go 4-4. Tadlock then broke again to go 5-4 and held for the 6-4 victory.

    “”In the third set, Lyndsey changed her strategy a bit,”” LaPlante said. “”She moved to the baseline and focused more on lobs letting her opponent make the mistakes.””

    This move was evident when a great number of points in the second set were 20-plus hit rallies with Tadlock rarely coming off her baseline.

    Ironically, it was a quick charge of the net in the final point of the match that gave Tadlock the victory.

    “”That’s the reason why we do the 100-ball drill,”” a candid LaPlante said of Tadlock’s change of strategy. “”[LiWanPo] just choked.””

    The Tritons improved to 22-3 on the season with the victories, but they don’t have long to revel in the victory. The team will head to Kansas City for the NCAA National Championships from May 9 to May 12. There they join 15 other teams in a single-elimination tournament.

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