CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - After lifting the Ephs' second NCAA Championship in the last three years on Wednesday afternoon, five Ephs returned to the court on Thursday to compete in Day 1 of the 2017 NCAA Individual Singles and Doubles Championships.
The senior-freshman tandem took the court in the first round of doubles late in the afternoon on Thursday, paired up against Brooke Donnelly and Tessa Hill of Washington and Lee University, who the two Ephs had already met over two months ago on their spring break trip. On that occasion, the Ephs eked out the win, 7-3 in tiebreaker, and were surely looking to repeat or better that feat on the Champions Club courts.
The Ephs benefited from having the morning off, as they jumped out to an early advantage over the Washington and Lee pairing, of whom Donnelly had already played two singles matches earlier in the day, recording a 6-1 first set. Donnelly and Hill began to somewhat hit their stride in the second set, keeping things interesting for a short time, before Atkinson and Henderson reestablished control of the proceedings with a break that they eventually saw out for a 6-4 second set.
By virtue of their win that secured them a spot in the quarterfinal round, Atkinson and Henderson earned themselves All-American honors, with still plenty to play for on Friday when they will take on the second-seeded doubles team of Nicole Tan and Lindsay Brown from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
The other Williams doubles team invited to the Individual Doubles competition, two-time reigning champions, Juli Raventos and Linda Shin, also garnered All-American honors thanks to their seeding in this year's tournament. However, Raventos and Shin were unable to join Atkinson and Henderson in tomorrow's quarterfinal round, as they suffered a grueling three-set defeat at the hands of Megan Humphreys and Bridgid McGuire, hailing from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The Ephs were quick out of the gate against Humphreys and McGuire, snatching the opening set 6-3, but then the Warhawk team seemed to find their second-wind starting in the second set, striking back to level the match with a 6-3 set of their own. Trailing by an early break in the final set, the Ephs managed to claw their way back into the match and hold serve at 3-all to go up 4-3. Nevertheless, the senior-junior powerhouse pairing finally ran out of gas in the final games, losing four of the last five to succumb to the Warhawk pairing.
Before doubles, two Ephs, sophomore Leah Bush and Raventos, also competed in the Individual Singles tournament.
Coming off her crucial win in the singles portion in the NCAA Championship dual the day before, Bush hoped to progress to the second round in what was her first appearance in the NCAA Individual tournament. However, those hopes of hers were squashed by Lauren O'Malley of John Carroll College, who outlasted the Floridian 7-5 in the first set, before cruising to a comfortable 6-2 second set.
Looking to build on last year's finals appearance, Raventos breezed through her opening round match against Wiktoria Plawska of Lewis and Clark College, dropping only two games en route to a 6-0, 6-2 win. However, the junior could progress no further, hitting a roadblock in the form of fellow NESCAC opponent, Victoria Yu of Wesleyan University.
The two had met during the regular season early on in April, when Yu defeated the Costa Rican 7-5, 6-2, and though Raventos posed a tougher challenge for the sophomore Cardinal this time around, it was again Yu who recorded the win. Yu capitalized on some early mistakes by Raventos to take the first set 6-1, but like in her doubles match a little bit later on, Raventos fought back in the second to level the match at one set apiece after a 6-3 score-line. Raventos quickly found herself back in a hole, however, as Yu came out strong in the deciding set, breaking the Eph's serve at 2-2, and never looking back from there, ultimately booking her spot in Friday's quarterfinals with a 6-3 final set.
In spite of the second-round loss though, Raventos would have collected All-American singles honors for the third year in-a-row, if she had not already cemented those in the fall with her ITA singles crown.
Day 2 of the NCAA Individuals tournament will begin with singles play on Friday morning, with Atkinson and Henderson's doubles match to follow at a to-be-determined time later in the afternoon.