CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The 2017 NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals started early on Monday morning in southeastern Tennessee at the Champions Club in Chattanooga, and two of the four contests were rematches from the regular season, one of which was the quarterfinal dual between the Ephs of Williams College and the Maroons of the University of Chicago.
The Ephs won 6-3 back in March when the two sides met on the west coast, and the Ephs replicated their match-winning performance on Monday, defeating the Maroons 5-3 to advance to the NCAA Semifinals for the 11th straight year.
Just like in their regular season contest, the Ephs took two of the three possible doubles points thanks to triumphs on Court 2 and Court 3, but this time all three matches finished with 8-5 score-lines.
Hannah Atkinson and Chloe Henderson led the doubles charge for the Ephs from Court 2, where their match against Alyssa Rudin and Tiffany Chen ended 8-5 in favor of the #11 doubles team in the country.
The Maroons were not behind for long though, as the Maroon duo of Rachel Kim and Marjorie Antohi struck back to level the dual score with an 8-5 victory of their own on Court 1 over the fifth-ranked pairing of Linda Shin and Juli Raventos.
It came down to Court 3 to determine which side would have the advantage going into the singles portion, and the reliable partnership of Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng delivered for the Ephs. The junior-freshman combination bested Ariana Iranpour and Laura Gutierrez, 8-5, to give the Ephs the 2-1 lead at the conclusion of doubles.
In the singles portion, the Ephs swiftly extended their lead with a win from one of their seniors and co-captains, Shin, who cruised to a comfortable straight-sets victory over Chen on Court 4, 6-1, 6-0.
Shortly after, Mia Gancayco on Court 5 brought the Ephs to within one match of a spot in Tuesday's semifinals when she finished off Rudin in just 15 games, 6-2 and 6-1, stretching the Ephs' lead in the dual to 4-1.
However, the Maroons did not go down quietly, as they strung together two quick wins to rekindle their own hopes of progressing to Tuesday's Final Four.
Kim was the first Maroon to find success in singles, as she pulled out a victory on Court 3 against Atkinson, after a hard-fought pair of 6-4 sets.
Then it was Antohi's turn on Court 2, as she staved off a second-set comeback from Williams' Leah Bush, who after losing the first set 6-1, led 3-0 in the second set, only to ultimately succumb 7-4 in the 6-all tiebreaker.
Now with only one point separating the two teams, the Ephs and Maroons settled in for a tense finish with the two remaining matches on Court 1 and Court 6.
After losing the first set 6-3 on Court 1, the second-ranked singles player in the country, Raventos, rallied in the second set, 6-2, to force a decider with the twentieth-ranked Iranpour.
However, though Iranpour was leading in the third set thanks to an early break, the match did not reach its conclusion, as Cancio overcame Estefania Navarro on Court 6. The Eph junior took the first set comfortably, 6-2, but then fell behind early in the second set, 3-0, before bursting back to life to win the final six games, thereby clinching the Ephs their semifinal spot.
"Today's match was really good for us. We had to move indoors at one point and then back outside and sit through a couple rain delays," Eph head coach Alison Swain reflected after her team's 5-3 win. "I think being able to make all those transitions and still play solid tennis throughout and compete really well was good for us mentally."
With the Ephs' win, they progress to their 11th NCAA Semifinal in-a-row, where they will meet NESCAC rivals, Middlebury College, who they will play for the third time this season. The Ephs faltered against the second-ranked Panthers in the regular season, but avenged that defeat in the NESCAC Championship dual a month later.
When asked about her team's NCAA Semifinal match-up, Swain preferred to keep the focus on her own team, rather than on who their opponent was. "At this point, we like to focus on ourselves and our game," commented Swain. "Everyone is excited about our outcome today but we got pushed and that we get to continue on and play again tomorrow in the final four."
The Ephs will take on Middlebury at 10 AM EDT Tuesday morning at the Champions Club in Chattanooga, TN.
Williams 5, University of Chicago 3
- Antohi, Marjorie/Kim, Rachel (CHICAGO) def. Raventos, Juli/Shin, Linda (WILLIAMS) 8-5
- Atkinson, Hannah/Henderson, Chloe (WILLIAMS) def. Chen, Tiffany/Rudin, Alyssa (CHICAGO) 8-5
- Cancio, Julia/Zheng, Emily (WILLIAMS) def. Gutierrez, Laura/Iranpour, Ariana (CHICAGO) 8-5
- Raventos, Juli (WILLIAMS) vs. Iranpour, Ariana (CHICAGO) 3-6, 6-2, 0-2 DNF
- Antohi, Marjorie (CHICAGO) def. Bush, Leah (WILLIAMS) 6-1, 7-6(4)
- Kim, Rachel (CHICAGO) def. Atkinson, Hannah (WILLIAMS) 6-4, 6-4
- Shin, Linda (WILLIAMS) def. Chen, Tiffany (CHICAGO) 6-1, 6-0
- Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) def. Rudin, Alyssa (CHICAGO) 6-2, 6-1
- Cancio, Julia (WILLIAMS) vs. Navarro, Estefania (CHICAGO) 6-2, 6-3
Order of Finish:
Doubles – 2, 1, 3
Singles – 4, 5, 3, 2, 6
Williams: 18-4, nationally ranked #4, regionally ranked #2 (Northeast)
Chicago: 18-5, nationally ranked #9, regionally ranked #1 (Central)