Tar Heels advance past Duke in NCAA Women's Tennis
Posted May 22, 2010
ATHENS, Ga. --- North Carolina's Sanaz Marand topped Duke's Ellah Nze in a three-setter for the third time in 2010 and the second-ranked Tar Heels advanced to the national semifinals for the first time in program history with a 4-3 win over the 10th-seeded Blue Devils Saturday afternoon at the University of Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Katrina Tsang, Gina Suarez-Malaguti and Zoe De Bruycker were also singles winners for Carolina, who will face No. 3 Florida in Monday's semis.
It was a dream start to doubles for Duke (22-7), as the Blue Devils got early breaks on all three courts and quickly led 4-0 at Nos. 1 and 2.
No. 32 Ellah Nze and Amanda Granson were first off at No. 1, as the Duke pair topped UNC's 13th-ranked Marand and Sophie Grabinski, 8-5. Nze and Granson led 7-2 before the Tar Heels won three straight games to pull back all but one break, but Granson served out the victory.
On court two, No. 31 Tsang and Shinann Featherston quickly righted the ship and were up a break at 6-5 after winning six of seven games. But No. 38 Mary Clayton and Monica Gorny got the break back on Featherston's serve and took the final three games of the match to give Duke the doubles point.
Jelena Durisic and Jocelyn Ffriend also rallied from an early deficit and were up 7-5 against Reka Zsilinszka and Elizabeth Plotkin on court three when the match was abandoned.
Just as they had done in the regular season win in Durham, the Tar Heels entered singles needing to take four of the six matches to advance.
No. 54 Tsang ensured Carolina (30-4) would not have to wait long to get on the scoreboard, as the Raleigh, N.C., senior dismissed No. 81 Plotkin in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. The win was Tsang's ninth in her last 11 matches and her third victory this year in NCAA play.
Only one other match would not require the full three sets, as No. 34 Zsilinszka posted a 6-2, 6-3 win over Grabinski on court three to restore the Blue Devil lead.
From there it was a quartet of three-setters that would decide the third meeting between the two familiar rivals.
De Bruycker, who had not appeared in the UNC singles lineup since April 10, was slow out of the gate in her match against Duke's Clayton on court six. After dropping the opening set, 6-2, the Saratoga, Calif., freshman was nearly flawless in rattling off 12 of the final 14 games for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 win that tied the team score at 2.
Carolina got its first lead of the afternoon from its other freshman on court four. Suarez-Malaguti, who has now won a match in all four Tar Heel victories in the event, toughed out a grueling opening set in a tiebreak before running away from Granson in the second, 7-6 (1), 6-1. The rookie from Pembroke Pines, Fla., is now 16-2 on the spring and the win was her seventh of the year in the No. 4 position.
After Duke's Gorny outlasted Featherston on court five, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, the match inevitably came down to the two seniors on court one.
No. 21 Marand showed no ill effects from the doubles loss as she stormed out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set. No. 47 Nze would not go quietly, however, as the veteran won three straight games to pull within two at 5-3. Marand would hold on to serve out the set, but it appeared the momentum had shifted in the latter part of the frame.
Nze then took the second set, 6-3, and for the third time in 2010, Marand and Nze would play a third set that would decide the dual.
Marand took the advantage to start, getting an early break to go up 3-1 just as the matches on the lower courts were concluding. Nze responded, however, winning the next three games to go up a break at 4-3.
Marand bounced right back, breaking Nze at love to make it 4-all and then securing a crucial hold to go ahead 5-4.
At 15-all, Nze appeared to break a string before sending a ball long to make it 15-30. After changing racquets, Nze committed an unforced error to bring up the first match point for Marand. The Duke senior spoiled the first match point, but at 30-40, Nze sent a ball just long and Marand and the Tar Heels celebrated their first win in the NCAA quarterfinals in four tries.
The victory means Carolina now faces third-seeded Florida Monday at 1 p.m. for a spot in the national championship match. The Gators (28-2) are one of just four teams to defeat UNC, as the SEC champions scored a 6-1 victory over Carolina in Gainesville in March.
The win also extends the Tar Heels' school record for single-season victories to 30, after Thursday's win eclipsed the 1980 mark of 28.