No. 29 Bulldogs Start NCAA Tournament Play Friday

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The Yale women's tennis team practices for the NCAA Tournament at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Will Play No. 42 St. Mary's at Stanford

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Ivy League champion Yale women's tennis team, No. 29 in the most recent national ITA rankings, is in Palo Alto, Calif., this week for the start of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs, who are making their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, will play No. 42 Saint Mary's (Calif.) at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium on Friday at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time (2:00 p.m. Eastern time).

Stanford, ranked No. 5 and seeded No. 4 in the tournament, hosts both the first- and second-round matches in its bracket, which also includes unranked Stony Brook. The second-round match takes place Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. Pacific time.

The Yale Season So Far

Yale (19-3, 7-0 Ivy League) earned its seventh Ivy League title (and second in a row) this season, completing a perfect season in league play for the first time since 2008. Winning the league outright gave Yale the Ivy League's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs also won their fourth straight ECAC Indoor Team Championship earlier this year at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.

With a nine-match winning streak, the Bulldogs enter the NCAA Tournament on quite a roll. They outscored their opponents 42-7 in league play, winning all but one match by at least three points. The Bulldogs have won 21 of 22 doubles points overall and feature two nationally ranked doubles teams, with senior Vicky Brook (London, England) listed twice. She and freshman Amber Li (Tampa, Fla.) have played the last six matches together at No. 1, going 4-2. They were named first team All-Ivy League and are ranked No. 72 in the country. Brook is also ranked No. 66 with freshman Hanna Yu (Northbrook, Ill.).

Those national rankings do not reflect the dominance of the Bulldogs' current No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams. The No. 2 team of junior Elizabeth Epstein (Chicago, Ill.) and sophomore Annie Sullivan (Deerfield, Ill.) has gone 20-1 in dual matches this spring and was recently named second team All-Ivy League. The No. 3 doubles team of senior Steph Kent (Washington Depot, Conn.) and sophomore Blair Seideman (Brookville, N.Y.) has gone 19-1.

Epstein has played No. 1 singles all season and was a unanimous first team All-Ivy League selection. She has a 16-6 mark that includes a win over Notre Dame All-American Kristy Frilling. Seideman, a second team All-Ivy League honoree, has played the majority of her matches at No. 2 and also has a 16-6 mark. She has won nine in a row, including all seven of her Ivy matches in straight sets. Yu has played the majority of her matches at No. 3, posting a 15-5 record that includes four straight wins.

Brook is 12-3 in singles this season and has won nine in a row, including every Ivy League match and six straight at the No. 4 spot. Kent has played the last five matches at No. 5 and won four of them; she is 15-5 overall. Sullivan has won five in a row at No. 6 and is 17-5 overall. Li has played all of her matches at No. 6 and gone 6-2. Junior Sarah Guzick (Greer, S.C.) has a 1-1 mark in her two matches.

 

Yale's History in the NCAA Tournament

This is Yale's third appearance as a team in the NCAA Tournament. In 2008, the Bulldogs lost in the first round at Georgia 4-0. Last year the Bulldogs beat William & Mary 4-2 in the first round, then lost to Duke 4-0 in the second round. Yale also had singles players in the tournament three times (1983, 1989 and 1991) and a doubles team in the tournament in 1983.

 

Yale vs. Ranked Teams

Here is how Yale has fared against teams that are currently in the ITA national rankings:

  • No. 11 Miami: L, 6-1
  • No. 15 Michigan: L, 4-3
  • No. 20 Notre Dame: W, 4-3
  • No. 33 Arkansas: W, 5-2
  • No. 47 Oklahoma: W, 6-1
  • No. 61 Brown: W, 7-0
  • No. 65 Syracuse: L, 4-3
  • No. 72 Princeton: W, 4-2 (Feb. 19); W, 4-3 (Apr. 7)
  • No. 73 Harvard: W, 6-1
 

Yale Coaching Staff

Head coach Danielle McNamara has led the Yale women's tennis program to three Ivy League Championships (two undefeated league seasons), three NCAA Tournament appearances and four ECAC Indoor Team Championships in her six seasons as the Bulldogs' head coach. For her efforts in 2011, which included leading the Bulldogs to the first NCAA Tournament match win in school history, McNamara was named ITA Northeast Region Coach of the Year. As a player at Michigan from 1996-2000, McNamara was the Big Ten Sportswoman of the Year (1999) and All-Big Ten (1998). She was the first player in Michigan history to participate in all three college national championships (All-American, National Indoors and the NCAA Championships). She was a two-time captain of the squad and earned the Michigan Athletic Department's Academic Achievement Award and the Donald R. Shepherd endowed scholarship for athletic and academic success.

Assistant coach Christian Thompson, a three-time All-American who graduated from Notre Dame in 2007, is in her third season with the Bulldogs.

 

Scouting Saint Mary's

Saint Mary's (14-7, 7-1 West Coast Conference) received an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament after falling to eventual WCC champion San Diego in the semifinals of the conference tournament. The Gaels are making their third straight NCAA appearance. They have won nine of their last 11 matches and have upset two top 30 teams (No. 25 Oklahoma and No. 29 Washington) so far this season. They have been ranked as high as No. 20 in the country.  Oklahoma is the only common opponent for Yale and Saint Mary's. The Bulldogs beat the Sooners 6-1 and the Gaels beat them 4-3.

The Gales' top two singles players, Catherine Isip and Jenny Jullien, were both named first team All-WCC. Playing primarily at No. 1, Isip went 11-10 overall but was 7-1 in conference play, including a win over WCC Player of the Year Katie Le of Santa Clara. Jullien was 16-4 overall and 13-2 at No. 2. She has played three of the last four matches at No. 1. Anna Chkhikvishvili was a second team All-WCC pick, her third straight all-conference selection, after going 15-5 overall and 8-0 in conference play. She has played primarily at No. 4, and just had a 10-match winning streak snapped.

Jullien and Jade Frampton have played primarily No. 1 doubles, and were a second team All-WCC selection. They have won seven of their last 10 after opening the season 0-4. Chkhikvishvili and Isip went 8-2 at the No. 2 spot and were also selected second team All-WCC. Elizabeth Searl has also been a key part of the doubles lineup, playing eight matches at the No. 1 spot with Isip. Most recently, she has played four straight matches at No. 3 doubles with Molly Aloia, winning three of them.

Lisa Alipaz, a five-time WCC Coach of the Year, has been the head coach at St. Mary's since 1999.

 

Scouting Stanford

Stanford (18-1, 9-1 Pac-12) suffered its only loss of the season nearly a month ago, falling to No. 1 UCLA 5-2. Other than that the Cardinal has been dominant, winning all but two matches this spring by at least three points -- including nine shutouts. That UCLA match (Apr. 14) also represents the last time that Stanford lost a doubles match. Since then, the Cardinal has won 14 straight doubles points and 42 straight doubles matches (one by forfeit).

The Cardinal is particularly tough at Taube Family Tennis Stadium. The loss to UCLA was just the second home loss for Stanford since 1999. That includes an NCAA record streak of 184 straight wins that was snapped in last year's NCAA Championship loss to Florida.

In addition to making the tournament as a team, the Cardinal has three NCAA singles selections and a pair of doubles selections. Nicole Gibbs is the No. 3 seed in singles and Mallory Burdette is the No. 5 seed, so they both earn All-America honors for that (the second in a row for Gibbs). Stacey Tan, an at-large singles selection, is ranked No. 25 in the country. Burdette and Gibbs are the No. 2 seed in doubles, earning All-America recognition for that. Tan and Ellen Tsay are an at-large selection in doubles, and they are currently ranked No. 24 nationally.

Gibbs is 17-2, playing all of her matches at No. 1. She has a seven-match winning streak and has won nine of her last 10, including a victory in the Pac-12 Singles Championship. Burdette has played all of her matches at No. 2, and is 18-0. Tan is 14-2, with 13 of those wins coming at No. 3.

Burdette and Gibbs are 16-1 at the No. 1 doubles spot. Playing together for the first time, the duo opened the season by claiming the title at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships. They were also runners-up at the Pac-12 Championship; Burdette won an NCAA Championship last year with Hilary Barte. Tan and Tsay are 16-1 at the No. 2 doubles spot.

Lele Forood, a 1978 Stanford grad, is in her 12th season as head coach and has led Stanford to six NCAA titles. She was the 2003 ITA National Coach of the Year.

 

Scouting Stony Brook

Stony Brook (14-7), which plays Stanford Friday at 2 p.m. Pacific time in the first round, earned a spot in the tournament as the automatic qualifier from the America East conference after winning the conference tournament for the first time in school history. The Seawolves were the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament, but upset 18-time champion Boston University in the semifinals and then beat UMBC 4-2 in the championship.

America East Player of the Year Nini Lagvilava went 16-4 at No. 1 singles and became the first player in Stony Brook history to be ranked nationally by the ITA earlier this season. Polina Movchan earned America East Rookie of the Year honors after she won 18 of her 20 matches at No. 2 singles and combined with Lagvilava to go 13-5 at No. 1 doubles. Movchan was also the Most Outstanding Player of the America East Championships.

Lagvilava and Movchan each earned a spot on the All-America East first team in singles in addition to being named first team in doubles. Seniors Katherine Hanson and Prerana Appineni were named to the second team in doubles.

Stony Brook head coach Gary Glassman and assistant coach Jay Friedman were named the America East Women's Coaching Staff of the Year. This is the third time, and first on the women's side, that Glassman and his staff have earned that honor. He has coached both the men and the women at Stony Brook for 13 years.

 
 

NCAA Tournament Format

The 64-team single-elimination NCAA Tournament field starts with the first and second rounds May 11-12 at 16 different campus sites, with the winner of each site advancing to the Round of 16. The last four rounds, including the championship, will be held May 17-28 at the Dan Magill Tennis Center in Athens, Ga., where Georgia hosts.

NCAA Tournament matches are regulation dual matches with three eight-game, pro-set doubles played for one team point, followed by six singles matches, each valued at one team point, played best of three sets. Regular scoring will be used and a 12-point tiebreaker will be played at eight-games-all in doubles and at six-games-all in singles.

 

Ticket Information

All seats at Taube Family Tennis Stadium are general admission, and Stanford's men's team will be hosting the first two rounds as well (Sacramento State, Santa Clara, Stanford and Texas). Three-day all-session tickets are $18 (adult) and $12 (student/youth/senior). Single-day tickets are $7 (adult) and $5 (student/youth/senior). All-session tickets are available by calling 1-800-STANFORD or visiting www.gostanford.com. Single-day tickets can be purchased on the day of competition at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.

 

 

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

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