May 15, 2010

Courtesy of The University of Miami

Coral Gables, Fla. - The No. 11 University of Miami women's tennis extended its season into the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday after defeating 26th-ranked University of South Florida, 4-0, at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables, Fla. The match was the championship of the Coral Gables Regional hosted by UM.

Miami (19-5) came out firing strong in the doubles point, picking up wins at the No. 2 and No. 1 line, giving the 'Canes the early lead in the match, 1-0. USF (12-8) had reason to believe it could take the doubles point after having two teams collect wins against the 'Canes at the FSU Fall Invitational in Tallahassee back in November.

The 'Canes 36th-ranked tandem of Anna Bartenstein and Bianca Eichkorn rolled to a decisive 8-0 win in No. 2 doubles over the Bulls' Janette Bejlkova and Lauren Shumate. The win improved the UM duo's record to 17-3 on the year, while moving them to 13-1 in the spring. In addition, they have picked up wins in their last nine matches together, all at the No. 2 position.

In the top flight doubles spot, Miami's sixth-ranked team of Gabriela Mejia and Laura Vallverdu clinched the doubles point after turning in an 8-1 win over USF's 16th-ranked team of Irene Rehberger and Melissa Koning. The win for Miami's Mejia/Vallverdu faction was their 10th in a row, as they now move to 24-5 overall. In the spring, the duo is 13-3.

"The girls came out and played really good doubles, and that set the pace today," said UM head women's tennis coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews. "That was big because they had some players beat us in the fall, and I know the girls wanted the chance to play them again. The doubles point was big, and it just set the tone going into singles."

In singles competition, Miami extended the lead at 2-0, as sophomore Anna Bartenstein, ranked No. 84 in the nation, avenged a loss from the fall to USF's Ecaterina Vasenina at the No. 3 position. Bartenstein jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the opening set, then racing to the 6-2 win. In the second set, she wasted little time jumping on top, 5-1, before eventually claiming the opening singles win, 6-2 and 6-2. For Bartenstein, the win moves her record for the year out to 29-6, and bumps her spring record to 19-4.

The Miami lead increased at 3-0, when senior three-time All-American and four-time All-ACC member Laura Vallverdu scored a win for the 'Canes at the No. 1 line. Vallverdu, currently ranked No. 7 in the collegiate singles poll, claimed her 30th win of the 2009-10 season after walking off the courts with a 6-1, 6-1 win from the Bulls' 43rd-ranked Irene Rehberger.

The win moved Vallverdu, already Miami's all-time singles leader in career wins in women's tennis history, out to a team-best 30-11 performance on the campaign, and also lifted her spring record to 18-5. Vallverdu, a native of Valencia, Venezuela, has now claimed 30-win seasons in each of her four years playing in Coral Gables.

The match victory was clinched on court five, as sophomore Gabriela Mejia used a 6-0, 6-2 line to defeat USF's Jessica Zok. Mejia trailed just once in the match, falling behind, 2-1, in the second set, before eventually picking up the final five games en route to the win. The victory pushed her 2009-10 record out to 28-4, and gives her a spring record of 22-2. She is currently tied with junior All-ACC member and All-American Bianca Eichkorn for the most spring victories on this year's roster.

"The girls were so focused today, and they really expected to get this win," stated Yaroshuk-Tews. "That's not to sound over-confident, but they really expected to come out and perform well today. They were excited about playing USF, and they wanted to return to the 'Sweet 16' after what we did last season. In a sense, this win was something they expected to achieve."

Miami now advances to the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Women's Tennis Tournament for the fifth consecutive season. The 'Canes have made quarterfinals appearances in two of the last three seasons, including last year in College Station, Texas, before falling to eventual national champion Duke.

This year's NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Tournament finals is being hosted by the University of Georgia at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. Once there, the No. 11 seed Hurricanes will face the No. 6 seed Northwestern Wildcats on Thurs., May 20, at 9 a.m.

"Facing a team like Northwestern is going to be tough," added Yaroshuk-Tews. "Northwestern is one of the top programs in the country. They have great players at the top three spots, and they are playing great tennis right now. It's going to be a match where each one of our student-athletes is going to have to be mentally and physically prepared, but it's definitely something we're looking forward to."