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ATHENS, Ga. – The third-ranked Vanderbilt women’s tennis team looks to continue play on the largest stage in collegiate women’s tennis, the 2017 NCAA National Championship.
“We’ve been in Athens for two days and we’ve had three really good practices,” said head coach Geoff Macdonald. “We’ve been practicing the same time as tomorrow’s match, trying to get accustomed to the elements. But what an exciting opportunity to be one of the teams still competing. I think the team looks at this tournament that way. It’s an accomplishment to be here, and we’re going to do everything we can to take another step tomorrow.”
Hosted by the University of Georgia on May 19-23, the fourth-seeded Commodores will face No. 13/13-seeded California on Friday at 3 p.m. CT. A competition between two teams who ended their 2016 national runs in the Final Four, Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup looks to be a thriller.
“We know Cal is really good,” continued Macdonald. “The rankings at this point don’t mean anything. We’ve got some scouting on them, they’ve got some scouting on us… it’s ultimately just going out and playing a dual match. We respect the heck out of that program.
“All the matchups tomorrow will be exciting to watch. For those watching live steam, doubles will be fantastic. The level of play tomorrow should be quite good… this is a can’t miss match.”
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Since its arrival in Athens, Vandy (22-5) has practiced three times, twice on practice courts and once beside Friday’s foe, Cal, on UGA’s familiar Dan Magill Tennis Complex courts. All five of the Dores’ losses came against teams on the opposite side of the draw, with Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford and Texas Tech remaining in competition.
— Vandy Women's Tennis (@Vandywtennis) May 17, 2017
Cal and Vanderbilt have only squared off once in NCAA play, with the Dores falling, 5-1, 17 years ago in in the Round of 16. One year later, Vandy found itself competing in the finals of the 2001 NCAA tournament in Stone Mountain, Ga. In 2015, the Dores took home the program’s first NCAA Championship.
Making its fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance (17th overall), VU will stick to its identical singles and doubles lineup from the pervious two rounds of the NCAA tournament, where it advanced past SIUE (W, 4-0) and Clemson (4-1). That same lineup paced the Dores to their first Southeastern Conference regular-season crown and second conference tournament title.
In doubles, the top-ranked duo of Astra Sharma and Emily Smith with compete on court one. The senior/freshman duo of Sydney Campbell and Emma Kurtz will battle on court two, with Fernanda Contreras and Christina Rosca looking for a victory on court three.
In singles, the Dores field four Oracle/ITA ranked athletes, with reigning SEC Player of the Year Sharma leading the quartet and the SEC at No. 4. The Aussie will contend on court one, beside No. 15 Campbell on court two. Competing on court three as a freshman, Rosca comes in at No. 102. Kurtz and Georgina Sellyn, a recent recipient of a Vanderbilt master’s degree in Social Foundations of Health: Medicine, Health and Society, will compete on courts four and five, respectively. One of the most dominant players at the No. 6 position, Contreras ranks 87th and owns a 16-2 dual record.
“The seniors have just encouraged us to go out and play our game like this is any other match,” said freshman Emma Kurtz. “We plan to just go out there and enjoy competing and playing for one another. All of our hard work has culminated here for this opportunity.”
The Dores face an experienced Cal team comprised of two juniors, three seniors and one grad student. The Bears continue tournament play with a 19-5 overall record, having swept San Jose State and LSU for a spot in the Round of 16. The squad’s five losses came against North Carolina (4-2), Oklahoma State (4-2), UCLA (4-3), Stanford (4-3) and against the Cardinal in the Pac-12 final, 4-1.
The Bears boast three ranked singles players, No. 10 Klara Popovic (Jr.), No. 34 Maegan Manasse (Sr.) and No. 123 Denise Starr (Sr.). In doubles, Maya Jenson teams up with Manasse as the 34th ranked duo. Popovic and Olivia Hauger follow at No. 55. Jansen, Manasse and Popovic will represent Cal in the NCAA individual championships May 24-29.
For updates and a behind-the-scenes look at the Dores’ journey through the NCAA Tournament, follow @VandyWTennis on Twitter and Instagram.