May 21, 2010

By Andy Johnston
Special to the

ATHENS, Ga. - The rain and storms that swept through north Georgia on Friday forced officials to move two matches of the NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Round of 16 to the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, about 50 miles from Athens.

Defending national champion Southern California defeated Kentucky 4-0 on Friday morning and Texas A&M played Baylor on Friday night in Norcross.

"I was extremely happy because I was extremely worried driving (50) miles in the rain in three cramped cars," Southern California coach Peter Smith said. "It was definitely adverse conditions, but we handled it well. It shows a lot about our team."

Georgia's indoor facility here has four courts, limiting the amount of matches that can be played simultaneously. The Racquet Club of the South has eight indoor courts.

Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 4-0 and Tennessee knocked off Louisville 4-0 on Georgia's indoor courts on Friday.

"We were disappointed to have to play indoors, but we are a very good indoor team," Kentucky coach Dennis Emery said. "USC was just better, and they showed their experience in playing in big matches. I thought we played well, but they were just too strong."

Saturday's forecast initially called for more rain, but is calling for clear skies and highs in the upper 80s.

HANDICAPPING THE FIELD: Louisville coach Rex Ecarma, fresh off a 4-0 loss to second-seeded Tennessee, wasn't shy about picking his tournament favorite.

"I've seen all the teams up close and personal, and if I had to put my $2 bet - I am from Louisville, Ky., home of the Kentucky Derby, where the $2 bet is very popular -- it's (Tennessee)," Ecarma said. "Not only did they play well, they didn't let us bother them. They look like a team that is destined to do something huge."

Ecarma was shocked at the improvement that Tennessee has shown since the Volunteers' 4-3 victory over the Cardinals on Feb. 1, 2009.

"Thirteen or 14 months ago, we barely lost to Tennessee, which outside of a couple of players, looks like the same team, and we lost to them 4-3 in a 5-hour, 45-minute match," he said. "They played at a national championship level (Friday). If I could define a national championship level, it looks like that."

Tennessee's John-Patrick Smith, the nation's top-ranked player, clinched the victory with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over 19th-ranked Austen Childs.
"We just jumped on them right from the start and we just kept doing it," Smith said. "I'm really proud of the guys and hopefully we can do well on Sunday."

NO. 1 MOVES ON: Top-seeded Virginia (38-1) moved to the quarterfinals for the sixth straight year with a 4-0 victory over 16th-seeded Duke.

It was the Cavaliers' most convincing win over the Blue Devils this season, joining a 4-3 regular-season win and a 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament victory.

"I feel like we picked up where we left off in the regionals," Virginia coach Brian Boland said. "We played a very complete match. All in all, I was pleased with the level of performance, from top to bottom."

HOSTILE ATMOSPHERE: A vocal group of fans showed up to support Tennessee, but the Volunteers also ran into an unexpected source of boos.

Georgia fans arrived at the time of the Bulldogs' scheduled match against Florida, only to find weather delays had pushed the 6 p.m. start time to 8:30.

That was OK with them. They quickly found their way into the indoor facility and allied with Louisville against their hated Southeastern Conference foe.

WOMEN ON SATURDAY: Three ACC teams - Miami (Fla.), Duke and North Carolina - remain in the women's quarterfinals, which gets under way at 1 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Top-seeded Baylor (30-2) plays No. 8 Stanford (23-1) at 5 p.m.