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    SEC Tennis In NCAA Tournament: May 20

    Georgia Narrowly Falls in NCAA Semifinals

    URBANA, Ill. --- Garrett Brasseaux saved five team match points at No. 5 singles, but Georgia still needed to win three matches in third sets and the comeback bid ultimately fell short against third-seeded and undefeated Virginia on Monday, as the Cavaliers (29-0) defeated the Bulldogs by a 4-1 score in the semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Championships at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. 
     
    The Bulldogs (26-5) end their season as SEC regular season and tournament champions, and reached the “Final Four” for the sixth time in the last eight seasons and the ninth time overall since the NCAA adopted the 64-team format in 1999. The Bulldogs today saw their 17-match winning streak come to an end.
     
    “I saw a bunch of guys playing hard and playing together,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “It hurts to lose a really close match like this, but I couldn’t be prouder of the guys. Virginia played a great match. We showed today that we are a championship team, and we’re only going to get better as we don’t lose any starters from the lineup. This experience will show the group how to win championships. It’s been a phenomenal time for me working with this group. They play their hearts out every week. I am glad they represent our university.”
     
    After Georgia fell behind Virginia 3-1 in the team match, Brasseaux battled through five match points between his final two service games of the second set and in the second-set tiebreaker, and saved them all to win the breaker and split sets with 28th-ranked Mac Styslinger at No. 5. With that third set just getting underway, Hernus Pieters led 4-2 in the third and was serving at No. 4, and a win there would have made it 3-2 with two matches on court. But UVA’s second-ranked Alex Domijan held on for the 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Georgia’s Nathan Pasha at line two to seal the 4-1 win before Georgia got any closer.
     
    Earlier, the Bulldogs surrendered the doubles point as Virginia was able to take wins at Nos. 2 and 3 for the 1-0 lead.
     
    Georgia then tied it at 1-1 in the match as freshman Ben Wagland defeated the nation’s third-ranked player in Jarmere Jenkins, going 7-5, 6-3 to take it in straight sets at No. 1 singles. Virginia then added a point with a win at No. 3, where 39th-ranked Mitchell Frank posted a 6-3, 6-3 win over Austin Smith, and the lead improved to 3-1 as Julen Uriguen beat Marco Nunez 6-3, 7-5 at No. 6 before Georgia mounted the comeback.
     
    The Bulldogs will continue play in Illinois in the individual tournaments this week as Wagland and Pasha will compete in singles, while Georgia will send two teams into doubles in No. 5-8 seeds Wagland and Pieters as well as the team of Pasha and Brasseaux. The match-ups for those tournaments will be released tomorrow.



    Texas A&M Women Take Down UCLA, Advance to NCAA Finals

    URBANA, Ill.  – No. 3 seed Texas A&M, which had reached the NCAA round of 16 only once in school history before this season, has reach the championship match and will face Stanford for the national title after a thrilling 4-3 victory over No. 7 UCLA Monday at the Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex.
     
    The No. 3-seed Aggies overcame a 3-1 deficit and won the last match standing to defeat the Bruins, who were making their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA semifinals and finished runner-up last year. 
     
    The match came down to No. 4 singles, where Aggie freshman Ines Deheza had won her first set, 6-4, against Chanelle Van Nguyen. The second set came down to a marathon tiebreaker in which Deheza fought off several set points and had match point at 7-6 before eventually falling, 11-9.
     
    Deheza broke and then went up 2-0 to open the third set before Van Nguyen got on a roll and won four consecutive games to go up 4-2. Van Nguyen was up 40-love in the next game when Deheza rallied and won the game to get within 4-3. Deheza held serve to tie the set at 4-4, and continued a run of 10 straight points into the next game. Deheza was at game point when Van Nguyen began to cramp and was unable to serve in the allotted time frame and therefore was issued a point penalty, giving the game and a 5-4 lead to Deheza.
     
    Deheza was up triple match point in the next game, and despite Van Nguyen hobbling in severe pain, the Bruin scored two points before Deheza clinched the historic win. 
     
    The Bruins began the match by winning the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead. The 25th-ranked duo of Robin Anderson and Skyler Morton defeated A&M’s 18th-ranked Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu, 8-5 at the No. 1 line.
     
    Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips followed with a 9-7 victory over twins Ines and Paula Deheza at No. 3 to clinch the point for the Bruins, snapping the Deheza’s nine-match winning streak. It also marked the first time A&M had lost a doubles match in this year’s NCAA tournament.
     
    Fourth-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar began singles by pulling off the highest ranked win in her career and knotting the team score at 1-1 with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over third-ranked Anderson at the No. 1 line. 
     
    UCLA went up 2-1, as Harrison defeated Anna Mamalat, 6-4, 6-2 at the No. 5 line, and the Bruins widened the margin to 3-1 as McPhillips came back to defeat Stancu, 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 2 court.
     
    Hristov won a clutch tiebreaker at No. 6 en route to defeating Courtney Dolehide, 7-6 (5), 6-1 to put A&M within 3-2, and Aggie senior Nazari Urbina won her 101st career singles match with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Pamela Montez at No. 3 to tie the score at 3-3 and send all eyes to Deheza’s court.



    Gator Women Drop Heartbreaker in Semifinals

    URBANA, Ill. – Florida nearly overcame a 3-0 deficit but couldn’t complete what would have been a stunning rally and its bid to win a third consecutive NCAA title came to end with a 4-3 loss to Stanford in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships played at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex at the Atkins Tennis Center on Monday evening.
     
    The Gators had several chances to take control, but couldn’t capitalize and found themselves on the disappointing end of another 4-3 thriller on the national stage with the Cardinal.
     
    The last two postseason meetings between the two programs prior to Monday both were thrilling 4-3 decisions in the final, with the Gators capturing the 2011 national championship and the Cardinal the 2010 crown and both of those matches came down to a third set in the last match on court.
     
    UF had its overall win streak halted at 19, as well as its 16-match run in the NCAA Championships. The Gator’s previous last postseason loss was a 4-3 decision to Stanford in the 2010 final
     
    “Our players were battling their hearts out,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “It looked so grim for us, down 3-0, but somehow we found a way and gave ourselves a chance to win. That’s one thing about this team, they just never give up. As good as Stanford it, they really took it to us for about two hours. Somehow after four hours, we still had a chance to win it. Hats off to Stanford, they played an amazing match, but I’m really proud of our team, our effort and their never-say-die attitude. A ball here or there and this match goes our way.”
     
    The Cardinal (21-4) jumped out to the commanding lead after winning the doubles point and the taking the straight set decisions on singles courts one and two.
     
    The Gators (26-3) earned their first point of the dual match when freshman Brianna Morgan (Beverly Hills, Calif.) collected a 6-1, 6-3 victory against Stacy Tan for her 13th consecutive win. The Gator rookie never trailed in the match, first jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first set and after trading breaks to begin the second won two straight games and held serve the rest of the way for the victory in one hour and 36 minutes.
     
    “She’s going to be a star, there’s no question about it,” Thornqvist said of Morgan. “She’s come a long way. She was a hitter in the fall and she’s a player now. There are still a lot of little things that she can improve on, but when you see the game that she puts on the court now that bodes real well for us in the future.”
     
    Senior Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) followed with a 1-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory against Natalie Dillon on court six and Florida trailed just 3-2 in the team scoring. After a 24-minute first set, Hitimana returned the court an entire different player as she posted three love games and let only three games reach duce in the final two sets.
     
    “It hurts,” Hitimana shared. “This was the last match of my UF career. It came down to a deciding match at 3-all. We had some chances but couldn’t pull it out. We’ve always had some great battles with Stanford and good luck to them in the final.”
     
    Junior Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) seemed in command of her match against No. 14 Krista Hardebeck on court three, where Cercone won the first set in a tiebreak and was serving up 5-1 in the second set.
     
    It appeared as though the deciding match would come down to court five, where junior Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) had split sets with Ellen Tsay on court five.
     
    As Janowicz and Tsay continued to hold serve in the third set, Hardebeck mounted a remarkable comeback by winning five consecutive games before Cercone halted the streak with a break to force a tiebreak. The Cardinal won the first three points of the tiebreak and Cercone had to play catchup the entire way, evening it at 4-all, but never taking the lead, as the match went to a third set.
     
    Meanwhile on court five, Janowicz earned the only break in the third set as she held at love for the 5-4 lead and broke to win the match and evened the team score at 3-all.
     
    “Olivia was amazing,” Thornqvist praised. “She’s improved a lot, tennis-wise and mentally. She’s so much more confident now and adds a whole different level of belief in herself. The last month of play you could really see it. Today, on this stage and do it against the caliber of a player like Tsay bodes well on her senior season.
     
    Cercone and Hardebeck traded breaks to being the third set on court three and it was on serve until the seventh game, where Hardebeck broke and held at love for the 5-3 lead en route to the clinching 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3 decision.
     
    Seniors Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Hitimana end the team portion of their collegiate careers having helped Florida compile a 113-8 record during the four years, while winning two NCAA team titles (2011 and 2012), reaching four NCAA Final Fours with a runner-up showing in 2010, four Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament championships, in addition to posting a 55-0 home record.
     
    Embree is set to compete in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships that begin Wed., May 22 in Urbana. The draws will be unveiled on Tuesday. Cercone and Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) also earned a berth into the 64-player NCAA Singles Championships, while Embree and Oyen pair in the 32-team doubles event.
     
    Hitimana concludes her collegiate career with a 73-18 overall singles record that includes a 48-4 mark in dual matches, as well as a 67-29 overall doubles record and a 48-14 slate in dual matches; she was 5-1 in NCAA dual match singles contests and 12-3 in doubles.
     
    Embree ends her remarkable individual dual match career with an 86-6 singles record, tied for the ninth-most wins by a Gator in dual match singles action; her singles winning percentage in dual matches was a 93.55 percent (86-6), the second-highest in program history (Bonnie Bleecker, 1995-98, 94.9% 93-5); doubles dual match record was 96-11.
     
    In NCAA dual matches, Embree ends her career as the Gator’s all-time leader for singles wins (15-1), with her only loss in 16 matches coming Monday, doubles wins (19-3), combined wins (34-4) and highest combine winning percentage (89.5 percent) of those playing a minimum of 10 matches.
     
    “We’ve had a great season,” Thornqvist reflected. “This group has been great to work with. They’ve had great attitudes and really enjoyed competing. It’s been challenging because we haven’t had the doubles issues in the past like we did this year but our players handled it with resiliency. We lost it more this year (10 times) than any other year that I’ve been here. We found a way to still be competitive against top teams throughout the year. I’m just really proud of them.”
     
    Stanford meets No. 3 Texas A&M (26-3) for the national championship on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT. The Aggies defeated No. 7 UCLA, 4-3, in their semifinal match.