ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. -- In an epic battle that lasted more than six hours and 20 minutes, sixth-ranked Saint Leo came back from behind to upset No. 3 BYU-Hawaii 5-4 on Wednesday afternoon at Sanlando Park. The Lions made their mark in a big way, handing BYU-Hawaii just its 10th loss in its 16 seasons as an NCAA program.
The Lions also give the Seasiders (25-1) their first loss of their 2014 campaign, and bounce the national powerhouse out of the tournament in the Round of 16. Saint Leo, who improves to an overall mark of 21-5, advance to the NCAA quarterfinals, and will face No. 12 California (Pa.).Saint Leo clinched the first match in doubles action to get the morning started, with Maria Benkirane and Adrianna Daszkiewicz earning an 8-0 win at No. 3 doubles. The No. 2-ranked duo of Nannan Zhang and Min Liu evened the tally at No. 1 doubles, defeating Pauline Helgesson and Paula Montoya 8-2. But the Lions took the lead once again after a hard-fought battle at No. 2 doubles, with Laura Kemkes and Anastasia Wagner taking down the No. 9 tandem of Maika Kobayashi and Marietta Tuionetoa 8-6.
The Seasiders entered into singles play with a vengeance, claiming the first match to even the overall tally at 2-2 as No. 4 Zhang defeated Coralie Pesenti 6-2, 6-0 at No. 1 singles.
Alexandra Ulbrichtov gave BYUH the lead with a 6-1, 6-0 win against Montoya in the fifth flight, pulling the Seasiders out to a 3-2 advantage. An unlucky turn of events transpired next that would have brought many teams to an end. Despite falling 6-1 in the first set to No. 25 Tuionetoa, Benkirane was up 5-4 in the second set at the No. 4 position. However, Benkirane was called for her third code violation, and was forced to default the match to her opponent, which gave BYUH a 4-2 lead.
All the while, impressive battles were transpiring at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 6 singles, and momentum seemed to be swinging in BYU-Hawaii's favor. However, a weather delay put play on hold, and the Lions were able to regroup and recognize that the match was far from over.
No. 48-ranked Wagner got the Lions back in the game as she clinched the next win, pulling the Lions back to within one 4-3 after a three-set campaign with Kobayashi. Wagner took the first 6-1 but Kobayashi bounced back to win the second set 6-3. Wagner held on, however and clinched a 7-5 win in the third to keep Saint Leo in play.
Just Kemkes and Daszkiewicz remained; both seniors who have seen the program rise from the bottom, and both with something to prove.
In the second seed, Kemkes picked up a 7-5 win in the first set, but No. 5 Liu bounced back to win the second 7-5. Kemkes remained strong throughout the final, earning a 6-2 win to hand Liu her first loss of the season.
While Kemkes and Liu battled it out at No. 2 singles, Daszkiewicz found herself at the bottom end of a 6-2 first set with Han at the No. 6 slot. It appeared like Han would clinch the match in the second set, but Daszkiewicz took a look at her teammate across the bank and was not about to back down.
Despite trailing 5-2 in the second set, Daszkiewicz battled back to earn a 7-6 (7-3) win, sending the match into a third and final set. She pulled ahead to a 5-0 lead, but dropped two consecutive before earning the match point almost six and a half hours later.