STANFORD, Calif. — Freshman Kayla Rizzolo had a feeling it would come down to her. At least that was what she was telling herself as the attention slowly began to shift towards her court.
Miami advanced into the NCAA quarterfinals for the third year in a row and the fourth time in the last five seasons as the Canes took down Michigan 4-2 behind a big win from Rizzolo in third round action on Friday afternoon at the Taube Tennis Center.
With Miami leading 3-2 Rizzolo earned a come-from-behind 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win against Sam Crister in the No. 4 singles position to send the Hurricanes (21-6) into the next round.
“I lost the first set and really wasn’t playing my best tennis,” Rizzolo said. “But I changed my game plan a little bit, stayed in, kept fighting and I was able to turn it around. In the end, I picked my game up.”
Miami will now face No. 2 national seed Florida – who won a close battle with Clemson to advance – on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
“We are all really happy and excited to play in the quarterfinals,” Rizzolo said. “We get to play Florida again, which we are all looking forward to. We had a tough match with them earlier this year, but we all believe we can beat them.”
The match against the Wolverines (24-5) opened with the Canes winning the doubles point after facing four match points in the No. 1 position. The fifth-ranked tandem of Bianca Eichkorn and Anna Bartenstein trailed 7-5 (40-15) and 8-7 (40-15), only to battle back in both instances to keep the point alive for the Canes. In the end, the pair earned a 9-8 (2) victory that proved to be a pivotal point in the match.
“Being down four match points at No. 1 doubles and finding a way to get it done was obviously the changer in the match,” Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said.
Then, after going up 1-0, Miami started off slowly in singles play, winning just two of the six first sets in singles. The two winners -Bartenstein and Gabriela Mejia – earned Miami’s second and third points with straight set wins at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively, but the rest of the positions were in doubt.
Bartenstein’s easy 6-1, 6-1 win against Brooke Bolender at No. 2 put Miami up 2-1, as Mimi Nguyen earned Michigan’s first point at No. 6 with a 6-1, 6-0 victory versus Melissa Bolivar. Then, eighth-ranked Denise Muresan pulled off a mild upset of sixth-ranked Bianca Eichkorn, 7-5, 6-2, at No. 1 to tie things up at two.
Then came Mejia’s victory, a 6-3, 7-6 (2) triumph against Whitney Taney at No. 3, which put the Canes back up by one with Rizzolo and Danielle Mills still battling it out at No. 4 and No. 5. Both had forced a third set and while both were close early in those sets, Mills started falling behind, leaving the match between Rizzolo and Crister to decide things.
Crister hung around and forced deuce down 5-4, but a ball just long by the Wolverine gave Rizzolo and the Canes the win.
“I think it was important that Danielle Mills was able to stay out there so long and that put Kayla Rizzolo at ease a little bit more,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “Kayla is such a competitor though. What an impressive showing by a freshman on such a big stage. She showed so much poise out there today.”
Miami will now look ahead to Florida, a team it lost to 4-1 in February during the ITA Indoor Championships in Virginia.