URBANA, IL - The Clemson women’s tennis team took the doubles point and the first singles decision, but fourth-seeded Georgia rallied to beat the 13th-seeded Tigers, 4-2, on Friday in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Team Championships in Urbana, IL. Clemson’s (16-8) season ends against Georgia (24-3) for the second straight year in the NCAA Tournament, in what was the 47th meeting between the programs all-time.
“It just wasn’t to be today, and I think being predominantly a freshman and sophomore team, when things got really close, they really had a hard time,” head coach Nancy Harris said.
Clemson’s roster, devoid of a junior or a senior, finishes the season with seven of their eight losses to top-ten teams. The Tigers played eight of the other 15 Sweet 16 teams throughout the season, in what was one of the toughest schedules in school history that included 15 matches against top-25 competition.
The season ended in the schools 11th appearance in the NCAA Round of 16, and the 21st NCAA Tournament in school history.
“That’s what is great about getting to the Sweet 16, is that we at least got this experience, and we’re delighted that they sort of made it to the dance,” said Harris. “That’s the saying amongst the best 16 teams in the country, and when you say ‘Clemson,’ you’ve got Stanford and Virginia and Florida and UCLA and Cal. All the greats are here, and I’m just proud of this group of freshmen and sophomores for getting here.”
Clemson had been 9-0 this season when winning the doubles point before today, while Georgia had lost only two doubles points all season, and they came against No. 1 Florida and No. 2 UCLA earlier in the season, both losses.
Yana Koroleva and Beatrice Gumulya stunned the nation’s top-ranked duo of Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia, 8-3 on court one. The duo won their eighth straight match together, and improved to 10-1 together this season. They defeated the nation’s No. 12 team from Vanderbilt last week in the second round, and followed it up even more impressively, as Garcia and Fuller weren’t able to get anything consistent after the Tiger tandem broke their first serve.
It was the first win over a top-ranked doubles team for a Tiger group since Keri Wong and Josipa Bek accomplished the feat on Feb. 9, 2011 against Allie Will and Sofie Oyen of Florida.
“We’ve been playing together for awhile,” Koroleva said. “Every time we’re just getting better and better because we’re getting used to each other, and I’m getting better at doubles because I’m usually not a doubles player. But now I’m starting to poach, starting to volley, and Bea helps me out a lot because she’s a great doubles player. So, it’s working out really well for us.”
Georgia took the match on court two, 8-3, but by then, Liz Jeukeng and Ani Miao held a 7-1 lead on Lilly Kimbell and Mia King on court three. The Tiger tandem went on to win, 8-1, and clinch the point. The two losing tandems had a combined 27-2 record entering Friday’s match, but went 0-2 against Clemson.
Koroleva, ranked 16th in the nation in singles, looked invincible against 6th-ranked Lauren Herring in singles. Koroleva’s variety and pace confounded the Bulldog junior, en route to Koroleva’s 6-2, 6-0 win to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
“I’ve played her before and lost to her,” Koroleva said, “and I knew that it has to change, so I tried to do something different. Instead of hitting the ball too hard, I tried to make her run and add some variety to my game — and that worked.”
Koroleva upped her record to 25-7 on the season, and will play in next week’s NCAA Singles Championships as a seeded player. It was her ninth win in a row overall, and she improved to 16-6 against ranked players. Herring fell to 35-6, and had been 24-4 against ranked players before running into Koroleva, who played one of her most complete matches of the season.
“I knew that I wouldn’t last long because my body is not at 100 percent, so I just had to think more and focus from the beginning to the end and finish the match faster,” Koroleva said.
From there, Georgia grabbed the momentum, as Kate Fuller took down Romy Koelzer in straight sets and Garcia snapped Gumulya’s ten-match winning streak with a 6-4, 6-3 win. Gumulya had not lost since Mar. 2, and had defeated Garcia in straight sets in the teams’ earlier match this season, a 5-2 Georgia win. Gumulya fell to 25-5, but will stay in Urbana, as she earned aspot in the Singles Championship.
Tristen Dewar fought off a first-set loss against Mia King on court six, to force a third set, but would fall as Georgia took a 3-2 lead. The clinch came in the form of Maho Kowase, as she beat 16-year-old Liz Jeukeng, 7-6(4), 7-6(2). Kowase has clinched three straight matches against Clemson, including last season’s 4-3 win in the second round.
Koroleva, Jeukeng, and Gumulya will stay in Urbana to compete in next week’s Singles Championships, for which draws will be announce early next week. It is the first time Clemson will have three players in the field since 1986.
Tennis Match Results
Clemson vs Georgia
May 17, 2013 at Urbana, IL
(Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex)
#4 Georgia 4, #13 Clemson 2
1. #16 Yana Koroleva (CU) def. #6 Lauren Herring (UGA) 6-2, 6-0
2. #19 Maho Kowase (UGA) def. #33 Liz Jeukeng (CU) 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2)
3. #104 Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. #40 Beatrice Gumulya (CU) 6-4, 6-3
4. Kate Fuller (UGA) def. Romy Koelzer (CU) 6-4, 6-1
5. Ayaka Okuno (UGA) vs. Ani Miao (CU) 5-7, 6-3, 3-0, unfinished
6. Mia King (UGA) def. Tristen Dewar (CU) 6-3, 1-6, 6-2
1. Yana Koroleva/Beatrice Gumulya (CU) def. #1 Kate Fuller/Silvia Garcia (UGA) 8-3
2. Lauren Herring/Maho Kowase (UGA) def. Romy Koelzer/Tristen Dewar (CU) 8-3
3. Liz Jeukeng/Ani Miao (CU) def. Lilly Kimbell/Mia King (UGA) 8-1
Clemson 16-8; National ranking #13
Georgia 24-3; National ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (1,4,3,6,2)
NCAA Round of 16 - Urbana, IL