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Saint Leo Athletics | May 15, 2014

St. Leo heads to school's first semifinal

  Saint Leo will face Armstrong Atlantic in the semifinals, a team it lost to earlier this year.

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Continuing its historic post-season run, Saint Leo took down the California (Pa.) Vulcans 5-2 on Thursday morning at Sanlando Park in the NCAA DII quarterfinals. Saint Leo advances its record to 22-5 on the season, while Cal U concludes its 2014 campaign with a mark of 15-3.

The Lions become the first team to advance to a national semifinal round in school history.

The matchup marked the first time the two programs met in competition in program history. With the win, the Lions snap a 13-match win streak of a team that has advanced to the NCAA DII quarterfinal round in seven of the past eight seasons, including six in a row.

Compared to battle the Lions endured the previous day against BYU-Hawaii in the Round of 16, Thursday's match was a breeze as it concluded in just under three hours with no matches going into a third set.  Saint Leo won two of the three doubles matches, beginning with the tandem of Laura Kemkes and Anastasia Wagner with an 8-4 win at No. 2 doubles versus Ramona Czakon and Mariela Sarinana.

Maria Benkirane and Adrianna Daszkiewicz pulled Saint Leo ahead 2-0, defeating Jesse Burrell and Kiefer Shaw 8-5 at the No. 3 position. The Vulcans answered back with a win of their own at No. 1, as the duo of Lucie Sipkova and Lucie Rey earned an 8-5 win versus Pauline Helgesson and Paula Montoya.

Singles play got underway with a few intermittent sprinkles to slow things down, but the Lions continued to build upon their doubles success. Montoya pulled the Lions ahead 3-1, earning a 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 5 singles against Veronika Mikulis, but Sipkova closed the gap back to one with a 6-1, 6-3 win against Coralie Pesenti in the top flight.

Kemkes answered back less than a minute later, clinching a 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 2 singles versus Czakon, giving the Lions a 4-2 lead.

Benkirane closed up shop for the day shortly after, taking down Shaw in the fourth slot 6-1, 6-2 to clinch the Lions' first NCAA DII quarterfinal victory.

Saint Leo returns to action on Friday morning, at 9 a.m. ET, when its takes on Armstrong Atlantic at Sanlando Park. The two-time defending national champions earned their 11th consecutive berth into the national semifinals earlier Thursday morning with a 5-0 win against NYIT. The last time out between the two teams was on Feb. 22, 2014, where Armstrong handed the Lions a 9-0 loss at the Saint Leo Tennis Center.