May 9, 2009

ATLANTA - Freshman Irina Falconi helped lift Georgia Tech to a 2-0 lead and the eighth-ranked Yellow Jackets held on to defeat No. 21 Mississippi, 4-1, here Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Women's Tennis Tournament.

Georgia Tech (18-7), the tournament's overall No. 9 seed, will play either No. 8 seed California or Texas in the round of 16, May 15th or 16th in College Station, Texas.

"It was a great match, with a lot of intensity," Yellow Jacket head coach Bryan Shelton said. "We set the tone early with the win in doubles and that gave us momentum."

The Yellow Jackets bolted to a 3-0 lead, thanks in large part to Falconi, who teamed with Sasha Krupina for an 8-5 doubles win, then made short work of 36th-ranked Kristi Boxx, 6-0, 6-2, in No. 1 singles. Falconi, ranked 12th nationally, won her 30th singles match of the year, including her 18th against a nationally-ranked opponent.

"When you have a No. 1 player who sets the table early, it makes it really tough on the opposition," Shelton said. "She tells you before the match that she's nervous, then she goes out there and wins six straight games."

Mississippi (15-10), however, rallied to make things interesting down the stretch. Gabriela Rangel won a three-set battle over Tech's Krupina to pull the Rebels within 3-1, and Ole Miss was in contention in all remaining matches.

The clinching point came, appropriately, from Georgia Tech's only senior, Christy Striplin. After losing the first set, Striplin rallied to win the final two sets, 6-2, 6-0, and she will play in the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth consecutive year.

"Christy comes up huge for us," Shelton said. "She's an amazing competitor. When you need one win (to clinch) and she's still on the court, you feel pretty good about your chances."

Tech sophomore Amanda McDowell, the defending NCAA champion, teamed with Lynn Blau for an 8-4 doubles victory. But McDowell may have had a bigger impact in singles when she rallied from a deficit to force a third set with Karen Nijssen. McDowell won a tie-breaker to send it to a third set and preventing Ole Miss from pulling to within 4-2. McDowell led in the third set when Tech clinched the team victory.

Cal and Texas met Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif., with the winner advancing to face the Yellow Jackets. The Bears beat Georgia Tech earlier this season, 5-2. The Jackets beat Texas, 4-2, in the round of 16 last year.

MATCH NOTES: Georgia Tech is making its 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance... the Yellow Jackets defeated Ole Miss for the first time ever (first meeting since the early 1990s)... Tech is 19-9 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.

1. #12 Irina Falconi (GT) def. #36 Kristi Boxx (UM), 6-0, 6-2
2. #71 Karen Nijssen (UM) -- #25 Amanda McDowell (GT), incomplete
3. #61 Noelle Hickey (GT) def. Laura van de Stroet (UM), 7-6 (1), 6-2
4. #45 Christy Striplin (GT) def. Abigail Guthrie (UM), 6-7, 6-2, 6-0
5. Gabriela Rangel (UM) def. Sasha Krupina (GT)3-6, 6-4, 6-2
6. Mimi Renaudin (UM) - Lynn Blau (GT), incomplete

1. #16 Karen Nijssen/Kristi Boxx (UM) -- #30 Christy Striplin/Noelle Hickey (GT), incomplete
2. Irina Falconi/Sasha Krupina (GT) def. Abigail Guthrie/Gabriela Rangel (UM), 8-5
3. Amanda McDowell/Lynn Blau (GT) def. Laura van de Stroet/Mimi Renaudin (UM), 8-4

Doubles - 3-2
Singles - 1-3-5-4