No. 35 Yale Starts NCAA Tournament in Sunshine State Saturday

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The Yale women's tennis team practices at Florida in preparation for the NCAA Tournament. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Face No. 23 Georgia Tech at Florida's Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Ivy League champion Yale women's tennis team, ranked No. 35 in the country, is in Gainesville, Fla., to take on No. 23 Georgia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs, who earned a spot in the tournament as the Ivy League's automatic qualifier for the third straight season, will face the Yellow Jackets on Saturday at 10:00 a.m., and the winner of that match will face the winner of the match between No. 1 Florida and Marist.

Florida, seeded No. 1 in the tournament, hosts both the first- and second-round matchups in its bracket at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex. The Gators have won back-to-back NCAA Championships.

Yale's Season to Date

Yale (17-3, 6-1 Ivy League) enters the NCAA Tournament having won eight of its last nine matches, and having been ranked as high as No. 23 this season.

The Bulldogs have won three straight Ivy League championships, sharing this year's title with No. 55 Columbia. Yale got the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament by virtue of a head-to-head win vs. the Lions in league play (5-2 on Apr. 14 in New Haven).

Senior captain Elizabeth Epstein (Chicago, Ill.) plays No. 1 singles and is ranked No. 75 nationally. Epstein, a two-time winner of the team's Lisa Rosenblum Award for most valuable player, has a 14-6 record at singles this season.

Epstein was a first team All-Ivy League selection in singles this year, her second straight first-team singles honor (she was second team in singles as a sophomore). Her signature singles win this spring was a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Virginia's Julia Elbaba on Mar. 16. Elbaba is currently ranked No. 12 in the country, having gone 13-1 since losing to Epstein.

Yale's other senior, Sarah Guzick (Greer, S.C.), has picked up a pair of wins in singles and in doubles this spring.

Freshman Madeleine Hamilton (Greensboro, N.C.) was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year (the first Bulldog to earn that honor since Cynthia Obsitnik '01 in 1998) and earned first team All-Ivy honors. Hamilton is 13-6 in dual matches this spring, including a 7-1 mark at No. 2.

Yale's biggest scorer this season is junior Annie Sullivan (Deerfield, Ill.), who, with 19 wins and one unfinished match, remains undefeated at singles in dual matches this spring. Sullivan has played at Nos. 3-5 this season but has recently settled into the No. 3 spot. She was a second team All-Ivy League selection in singles.

Sullivan's last loss in singles was Oct. 21, 2012 in the round of 32 at the USTA/ITA Division I Northeast Regional Championship. Her last loss in singles in dual match play was Apr. 7, 2012. Overall she has won 22 straight singles matches, and in dual match play her streak is at 25 (with two unfinished).

Sophomore Hanna Yu (Northbrook, Ill.) has posted a 14-5 record this spring, including an 11-3 mark at No. 4. She has won seven of her last eight singles matches.

Sophomore Amber Li (Tampa, Fla.), Yale's only Florida native, is 11-7 overall and 7-6 at No. 5.

Freshman Courtney Amos (Tucson, Ariz.) has gone 8-3 at the No. 6 spot this spring. She and Hamilton are part of a talented freshman class that also includes Ree Ree Li (Waxhaw, N.C.), who has one singles win and one doubles win this spring.

The Bulldogs have used 15 different doubles pairs this season, with Hamilton and Amber Li tying Epstein and Sullivan for winningest pair. Both pairs boast nine wins on the season, Hamilton and Li in 14 matches and the more senior pair in 13. As a team, Yale has won the doubles point in 14 of its 20 matches this season.

Epstein and Sullivan were a second team All-Ivy League selection as a doubles pair. That was the third time in Sullivan's career she earned second team All-Ivy in doubles, and the second time for Epstein.

Epstein and Yu have played the last three matches together, including the last two at No. 1. Amos and Sullivan have played the last two together at No. 3, winning them both.

Yale's History in the NCAA Tournament

This is Yale's fourth appearance as a team in the NCAA Tournament.

In 2008, the Bulldogs lost in the first round at Georgia 4-0.

In 2011 at Duke the Bulldogs beat William & Mary 4-2 in the first round, winning doubles 2-0 and then getting singles wins from Vicky Brook '12 (at No. 2), Sullivan (at No. 5) and Steph Kent '12 (at No. 4) to clinch the match. They then lost to Duke 4-0 in the second round.

In 2012 at Stanford the Bulldogs beat St. Mary's (Calif.) 4-0 in the first round, winning doubles 2-0 and then getting singles wins from Sullivan (at No. 6), Yu (at No. 3) and Epstein (at No. 1) to clinch the match. They then lost to Stanford 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 in the ITA Rankings

Yale enters the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 35 this year. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 29 entering last year's tournament, and ended that season ranked No. 29. That was the highest final ITA ranking in school history, and marked the fourth straight season that the Bulldogs ended the year with a higher ITA ranking than the previous year.

The ITA rankings date back to 1982. The 1978 Yale team was No. 18 in the Women's Large-College Tennis Coaches' Poll.

Yale vs. Ranked Teams

Here is how Yale has fared vs. teams that are currently in the ITA national rankings (six wins, three losses):

vs. No. 14 Virginia (Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic): L, 3-4
vs. No. 19 Vanderbilt (ITA Kickoff Weekend): L, 1-4
at No. 37 Mississippi (ITA Kickoff Weekend): W, 4-2
vs. No. 51 Arkansas: W, 4-3
vs. No. 53 Pepperdine (Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic): W, 4-3
vs. No. 55 Columbia: W, 5-2
at No. 68 Harvard: L, 2-5
at No. 70 Princeton: W, 5-2
vs. No. 73 Ohio State (Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic): W, 4-1
vs. No. 75 DePaul: W, 4-3

Yale is 11-0 against teams that are not currently ranked.

Yale Coaching Staff

Head coach Danielle McNamara has led the Yale women's tennis program to four Ivy League Championships (two undefeated league seasons), four NCAA Tournament appearances and four ECAC Indoor Team Championships in her seven 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 Kirsten Flower, who won a national championship as a player at Georgia Tech in 2007 before transferring to Ohio State to finish her career, is in her first season with the Bulldogs.

Janet Kim '09, the 2008 Ivy League Player of the Year and a four-time first team All-Ivy singles selection who helped the Bulldogs win the 2008 Ivy League title, is Yale's volunteer assistant.

Scouting Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech (14-9, 7-4 ACC) earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament after finishing fifth in the ACC and falling to No. 6 Miami in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Apr. 26. The Yellow Jackets had won eight of 10 matches prior to that.

Georgia Tech's top doubles team, an all-freshman duo of Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard, is 19-2 in dual matches this spring and is ranked No. 60 in the country. Woodard also has a team-best 23 wins in singles this season, playing primarily No. 2, and is ranked No. 88 in the country. She was recently named All-ACC.

Elizabeth Kilborn, Georgia Tech's No. 1 singles player and the only senior on the team, is ranked No. 98 and has beaten five ranked opponents among her 14 singles wins.

The Yellow Jackets have made the NCAA Tournament for 14 straight seasons, advancing to the Sweet 16 seven times (including the last two years) and winning the NCAA Championship in 2007. 

Yale and Georgia Tech have never met in a dual match, but Yale came to the Georgia Tech Invitational in the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011. In 2011, Georgia Tech won all seven singles matches and all three doubles matches against Bulldog opponents. In 2010, the Bulldogs won one singles match (Vicky Brook '12) and one doubles match (Brook and Lindsay Clark '11) against Yellow Jacket opponents.

Adding to Yale's familiarity with the Yellow Jackets, Bulldog assistant coach Kirsten Flower played at Georgia Tech as a freshman and as a sophomore.

Rodney Harmon is in his first season as head coach at Georgia Tech. Harmon was a two-time Big East Coach of the Year (1996 and 1997) while coaching the men's team at the University of Miami.

Scouting Florida

Florida (22-2, 12-1 SEC) will play Marist at 1:00 p.m. on May 11 in the other first-round matchup in Gainesville. The Gators, who won their fourth straight SEC Championship this year, have hosted first- and second-round matches every year since the NCAA Women's Championship expanded to 64 teams in 1999. They have won 119 straight matches at home.

Florida boasts the No. 1 singles player in the country and the two-time SEC Player of the Year, Lauren Embree. She is one of seven ranked singles players for the Gators, and she teams with Sofie Oyen to give Florida the No. 11 doubles team in the country. Embree, Oyen and Alexandra Cercone have all been selected for the NCAA Singles Championships this year.

Florida is making its 31st appearance in the 32-year history of the NCAA Championship. The Gators have won six NCAA team titles and have advanced to the semifinals 21 times in the last 25 years.

Roland Thornqvist is in his 12th year as head coach at Florida, having led the Gators to three of their national championships.

Scouting Marist

Marist (11-7, 6-1 MAAC) earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament as the automatic qualifier from the MAAC. The Red Foxes beat Fairfield 4-1 in the MAAC Championship to earn the bid. That was their sixth win in a row. 

Five Red Foxes earned All-MAAC honors, as Joana Sun made the first team in singles, Marielle Campbell and Carly Pang made the second team in singles and Kelsey Raynor and Sabina Tahir made the first team in doubles.

This is Roge Nesbitt's seventh spring as head coach at Marist. She has led the Red Foxes to four MAAC championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances. The team is 40-8 in conference play under her.

NCAA Tournament Format

The 64-team single-elimination NCAA Tournament begins at 16 different host sites with the first and second rounds held May 10-12. The winner of each host site advances to the Round of 16, to be played at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, Ill., where Illinois hosts the remainder of the tournament May 16-27.

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.

Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex

Florida's Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex was completed in January of 1999 and features a 1,000 seat grandstand overlooking six main lighted courts, in addition to a second row of six outdoor courts and three indoor courts. The courts were resurfaced in the summer of 2012 and are similar to the type of surface found at the U.S. Open. 

Ticket Information:

In addition to the women's matches, Florida is also hosting the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships first and second rounds (No. 18 Cal vs. No. 33 Florida State, No. 15 Florida vs. Denver on Friday; winners face each other on Saturday). Tickets may be purchased in advance or on each day of the tournament. An ALL-SESSION Pass is $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for senior citizens, college students, and children under 17. SINGLE DAY tickets for Friday and Saturday are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for senior citizens, college students and children under 17. SINGLE DAY tickets for Sunday are $3.00 for everyone. Spectators interested in purchasing an advance ALL-SESSION Pass may do so by contacting:

Gator Ticket Office
Post Office Box 14485
Gainesville, FL  32604
352/375-4683, ext. 6800
352/372-5801 (fax)

Tickets also are available for purchase online at www.Gatorzone.com/tickets

Gates will open for fans one hour prior to the start of the first competition each day.  Please note that seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. No saving of seats will be permitted.

A Will Call window for the teams will also be located at the Ring Tennis Complex entrance.

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

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