When We Last Left Our Heroes
Virginia was facing national title contender and ACC Champion North Carolina in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is an event that is not kind to underdogs.
How Did It Go?
They won. Wait, THEY WON?!?!?
The Cavaliers pulled a major upset, shocking the Tar Heels, 4-2. The win came a month after UNC dismissed the Hoos easily in the ACC semifinals.
Virginia recorded wins at #1 and #3 doubles to take a doubles point that was essential for the victory. The Cavs had lost the doubles point in their previous matches against UNC, including a narrow 4-3 loss in Charlottesville.
The start of singles was rough for Virginia, who ultimately dropped 5 first sets. Erica Susi lost in straight sets at #5 to tie the match at 1, but Meghan Kelley finished off Kate Vialle 6-3, 6-1 on court 4 to put Virginia ahead again 2-1.
North Carolina again knotted the match as Marika Akkerman defeated Virginia's Cassie Mercer at #6 singles in straight sets. Stephanie Nauta, however, stormed back from losing the first set to Jessica Aney to book a 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 win and put the Hoos on the brink. Virginia's top 2 players, however, were both deep in second sets after losing their first sets.
In the match against the top two ranked players in the country Danielle Collins won her second set from Haley Carter, while at #2 singles, Julia Elbaba needed a tiebreaker win to extend her match against Whitney Kay.
Carter and Elbaba both scored late breaks against their opponents. Elbaba ended up attempting to break Kay for the win while Collins was simultaneously trying to break to stay in her match against Carter. At 15-40, Kay put a shot into the net, giving Elbaba a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 win, and Virginia an improbable victory.
A day off as the men play their Round of 16 matches, and then #6 seed and defending national champion Vanderbilt on Saturday in the quarterfinals. The Commodores rallied past Auburn minutes before Virginia clinched their match.
How Can Virginia Win?
The same recipe that beat the Tar Heels. Winning doubles is an absolute must. Virginia's best shot for singles victories are Danielle Collins at #1, Julia Elbaba at #2 and Meghan Kelley at #4. Nauta will be an underdog against Astra Sharma at #3 singles, but she was also an underdog today. Susi and Mercer will be facing major challenges against the deep Vanderbilt singles lineup.
For now though, the team should celebrate. After the tribulations in April, the team scored a major upset on the biggest stage in the college game. No Virginia women's tennis team has ever advanced to the NCAA semifinals, but this team has earned a shot on Saturday.