May 9, 2009

*Courtesy of Miami (Fla.) Athletics

Coral Gables, Fla. - No. 6 Miami (25-4) collected a 4-0 victory over cross-town foe FIU (19-6) on Saturday, May 9 in the championship match of the Coral Gables Regional at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center as part of this year's NCAA Women's Tennis Championships. UM advances to its fourth Round of 16 appearance in the last five years.

Miami (25-4) opened up the day with a hard-fought doubles point, taking both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles for the early, and ultimately important, 1-0 advantage in the match.

The 19th-ranked doubles pair of UM's Michaela Kissell and Laura Vallverdu downed FIU's Mariana Muci and Maria Dolores Pazo at the top flight doubles spot, 8-3. That was followed up by Gabriela Mejia and Claudia Wasilewski erasing an early 3-2 deficit to collect an 8-6 decision over Priscilla Castillo and Maria Spenceley at the third slot.

"The girls are playing great tennis," stated UM head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, advancing to her fifth NCAA Round of 16 appearance. "I think they fought a few nerves today. I don't think it was the cleanest match that we could have played, but it's the sign of a great team; and the sign of a lot of great individuals when you don't have your best day, and you can still dominate teams."

In singles play, Miami moved quickly at the top spot as third-ranked and All-ACC Team member Julia Cohen (29-5) picked up an impressive 6-4, 6-0 straight-set win over No. 79 Liset Brito of FIU. Saturday's match marked the second time this season that Cohen has beaten Brito, both with similar scores. Cohen downed Brito in straight-sets (6-4, 6-0) as part of a 6-1 Miami victory back on Jan. 28 of this year.

Holding a 2-0 advantage in the match, No. 31 Bianca Eichkorn, a member of the 2009 All-ACC Team, of Miami captured a 6-1, 6-2 win at the third slot over FIU's Maria Spenceley. The win was the 37th of the season for the Tengen, Germany sophomore, sporting a 37-7 record for the season into next week's Round of 16 match. Eichkorn now sits beside current UM volunteer assistant coach Megan Bradley (2003-04) for the third-most singles wins in a season all-time at UM.

UM eventually clinched the match courtesy freshman Gabriela Mejia (21-13) securing a 7-5, 6-0 win over FIU's Priscilla Castillo at the fifth spot. Mejia moved her record to 14-5 on the season at the No. 5 singles position, and upped her record for the spring to 16-6.

"I think this was good for us," added Yaroshuk-Tews. "The girls fought through some nerves early-on, and ended up on a high note. I know they'll be excited going into College Station, but I'm really proud of everything that they've accomplished."

With the match clinched for UM, two hard-fought matches in singles play were suspended, including one of the most energetic matches of the day at the No. 2 singles spot. Three-time All-ACC and two-time All-America performer Laura Vallverdu (No. 24) was locked in a battle with FIU's Mariana Muci (No. 98). Vallverdu collected the opening set win (6-3), but trailed 3-0 in the second when the match was suspended.

Also locked in a battle for UM was Michaela Kissell (No. 49) as she took on Maria Dolores Pazo at the No. 4 singles position. Kissell, after collecting the opening set with a 6-3 line, trailed 5-4 in the second before the match was suspended with the UM team win.

Miami will now face the winner of Arizona State and UCLA, who will play tomorrow at 3 p.m. The Round of 16 contest for Miami will take place at the Texas A&M Tennis Center in College Station on Friday, May 15 at 10 a.m.

"Experience is always going to help you become a better team," stated Yaroshuk-Tews. "That's proven this year. The kids that are sophomores that have come back are better than they were last year. And with every year you grow. Having no seniors and having everybody return next year ... this is just a step in the right direction."

For Miami, the 25 wins thus far on the season is the most for a Yaroshuk-Tews coached squad, as her previous total was 24 during the Hurricanes' NCAA Finals appearance in 2006. It's also the most wins for the `Canes since 1985 when they went 29-6 under then head coach Ian Duvenhage--also making an NCAA Finals appearance, falling to Southern California, 6-2.

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