UCLA scores upset, semis berth
Florida and UCLA meet in tourney for fourth time in six years
STANFORD, Calif. - After falling in the deciding singles match against Duke in the third round of last season's NCAA tournament, senior Noelle Hickey enjoyed some sweet revenge on Sunday. Her three-set victory at No. 2 singles propelled sixth-seeded UCLA to a 4-2 upset of the third-seeded Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships at Stanford's Taube South Courts. UCLA (22-5) moves on to Monday's semifinals where they will meet second-seeded Florida (29-1). The Gators downed Miami, 4-1 on Sunday.
"I'm very proud of my team," said UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster. "This Duke team is a tough team so we knew they were going to be very feisty and were not going to make it easy for us. We lost to them last year in the Sweet 16 and that was a tough loss for us. To be able to play them here and to now be in the Final Four, it's very sweet. We are ready to keep this going."
Similar to its third round against Virginia, UCLA came out firing in doubles on Sunday, clinching the point with wins at courts 2 and 3. The Bruins registered a quick win at the No. 2 spot, where Hickey and McCall Jones downed Nadine Fahoum and Hanna Mar, 8-0. That win was quickly followed up by an 8-5 victory by Maya Johansson and Pamela Montez against Mary Clayton and Monica Gorny at court No. 3, clinching an early 1-0 lead for the Bruins heading into singles play.
With the doubles point in hand, UCLA moved out to a 3-1 lead following wins at court Nos. 1 and 4. Jones, ranked No. 57 nationally, upset the 39th-ranked Fahoum, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 at court No. 1, while Montez pulled off an upset of her own, beating 72nd-ranked Elizabeth Plotkin, 7-5, 6-4 at court No. 4. The Blue Devils' lone point early in the match came at court No. 5, where Rachel Kahan downed Bruin freshman Courtney Dolehide, 6-4, 6-4.
Although the Bruins were just one win away from clinching the upset, Duke put up a strong fight. Clayton made the score 3-2 when she downed Johansson, 6-0, 6-7(4), 6-3 at court No. 6, giving the Blue Devils some slight hope.
Things began to look even better for Duke when Reka Zsilinszka went up a break in the third set against Bruin senior Andrea Remynse at court No. 3. Zsilinszka would eventually go up 4-1 causing most of the pro-UCLA crowd to focus next door at court No. 2, where Hickey owned a 5-2 lead in the third set versus Ellah Nze. Hickey would break Nze in the final game of the match, eventually taking a 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-2 victory to send UCLA into the semifinals for the first time since 2008.
It marks the fourth time in the last six years that UCLA and Florida will have met in the NCAA Tournament. The last NCAA meeting between the two teams was a 4-2 Bruin victory in the 2008 semifinals in Tulsa, Okla. UCLA went on to defeat Cal in the final that year. The Bruins and Gators also met in the third round the last time Stanford hosted the NCAAs in 2006. Florida won that match 4-3.