USC Women Push Top Seed Georgia To The Brink, Fall 4-3 In NCAA Round of 16
May 15, 2014
ATHENS, GA. -- The No. 16 seeded USC women's tennis team showed no fear against the NCAA top seed tonight, going toe-to-toe with top-ranked host Georgia before the Bulldogs managed the tensest of victories after five hours of tennis for a 4-3 final in the NCAA Round of 16 in Athens, Ga. USC had clawed back from a two-point deficit on some powerful singles play tangling things at 3-3 to leave the match decider on court one, where USC's #19 Zoë Scandalis was in an all-out battle with Georgia's #6 Lauren Herring. Scandalis' gutsy effort had the higher ranked player and the top-ranked Bulldogs scrambling to hang on on their home courts. In the end, though, Herring pulled off the win in a heated tiebreaker to wrap the match for host Georgia. USC finishes its 2014 campaign with an 18-8 overall record.
But the season is not over for Scandalis and several of her teammates. The Women of Troy have Scandalis and Giuliana Olmos in the mix for NCAA Singles competition, and that duo is also locked in for the NCAA Doubles draw along with the Trojan team of Brynn Boren and Zoë Katz.
The doubles point was a see-saw battle, with leads trading hands down the line. On court one, USC's Pac-12 Doubles Champions Kaitlyn Christian and Giuliana Olmos picked up an early break over the nation's #2 pair of Herring/Kowase, but the home pair was able to work back into gear. The Bulldogs would grab the first win of the day with an 8-5 decision on court one, leaving two tight matches raging on the remaining courts. Brynn Boren and Zoë Scandalis were up to the challenge against #19 Fuller/Garcia. They kept reeling in the Bulldog duo, fighting off two match points to pull even at 7-7. Their level score, however, came just a breath too late. On court three, Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Katz, too, had their backs to the wall. They had evened things up at 6-6 with Katz at the service line, only to see the Bulldogs push back in a couple long deuce games. Georgia's Brinson/Kimbell managed to break the stalemate and snag an 8-6 victory to bring doubles to a close with the Bulldogs holding a 1-0 lead.
Singles play was similarly dramatic, ebbing and flowing early as each team worked to build energy and momentum. Georgia feigned early control when #102 Lily Campbell snatched a 6-1, 6-2 win over USC's #118 Gabriella DeSimone on court four. That put the Bulldogs up 2-0 in the match, but the Trojans were working into striking distance on the other courts. Senior Brynn Boren made the first move for the Trojans. She easily upended Georgia's #15 Silvia Garcia, winning seven straight games en route to a 6-3, 6-0 win that put USC on the board. Georgia's higher seed would prevail on court three, however, with #20 Maho Kowase keeping USC's #60 Giuliana Olmos at bay and taking the Bulldogs ahead 3-1.
USC had a quick counter-punch to that. Just a breath after Olmos fell, USC's #92 freshman Zoë Katz stood her ground on court six. She -- like Boren -- would claim the last seven games of her matchup against Mia King, topping off her NCAA debut with a shutout that made it a 3-2 match on her 6-3, 6-0 victory. USC kept coming. The Women of Troy made their next move with an enthusiastic effort from senior Kaitlyn Christian. Her high energy and skill would pull the Trojans into a 3-3 lockup with the Bulldogs as she felled Kate Fuller with a 7-5, 7-5 decision.
That put all eyes on an epic battle on court one, where USC's #19 Scandalis had her hands full with Georgia's #6 Lauren Herring. Scandalis was ferocious in her quest, ignoring Herring's high rank and sticking to her guns down the stretch. Her performance in the first set, where she turned the tide late for a 7-5 victory out of the gate, made a name for her. Even when the second set saw Herring find a groove to force a third, Scandalis was resolute in each game of the third. That set would sway wildly against expectations, as each player insisted on breaking the other's service game in the final stretch, heaping pressure and intensity on every point. Finally, it came to a tiebreaker to decide it all. Scandalis remained strong, but Herring found some slick shots in her arsenal for the final push. As she had in the third set as well, Scandalis fought off a couple match points to rachet up the intensity on Georgia's home turf. Herring managed one last smooth shot, though, wrapping up a wild battle with a 5-7, 7-1, 7-6 (5) decision to finish it off as a 4-3 Georgia victory.
2014 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Athens, Ga.)
ROUND OF 16