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Vanderbilt Athletics | May 17, 2015

Decision pays off for Sharma, Vanderbilt

  The Austrialian Sharma made the decision to redshirt her true freshman season because of a wrist injury.

WACO, Texas -- Vanderbilt edged out Florida 4-3 Sunday night in the NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship quarterfinals at Baylor University.

Vanderbilt (23-6) will take on top-seeded Southern California in the semifinals on Monday at Hurd Tennis Center. USC (25-2), beat the host and eighth-seeded Baylor Bears 4-1 in Sunday's quarters.

The Commodores finished as national runners-up in 2001, and made the semifinals in 2004. Monday's match with the Women of Troy will be Vanderbilt's third semifinal in its history. Last year, the Gators shut out the Commodores 4-0 in the round of 16 at Athens, Georgia.

The man who has been with them every step of the way is Vanderbilt head coach Geoff Macdonald, in his 21st season at the Commodores helm.

"We have been telling this team they are good enough to do it." said Macdonald about the semifinals berth. "We invited Jeff Moore [the former Texas women's tennis coach], who does some leadership stuff. He had a really good weekend with the team, and said some things which were really important.

"We talk about winning and losing as a team, and when we show up, we are really good."

The clincher came at No. 2 singles as red-shirt freshman Astra Sharma, ranked No. 42, defeated No. 13 Josie Kuhlman 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

Last season, the Perth, Australia, native had hand-wrist tendonitis, and Macdonald decided to request red-shirt status. Sharma did some coaching along the way, and Macdonald said she matured a great deal.

"This whole year, everyone has worked super hard," said Sharma. "The work ethic of this team has been phenomenal. We started off rough, but the difference is that everyone is ready to work and support each other. It really comes through in tough matches like these."

Sharma received a bid to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship, and is paired with senior Ashleigh Antal in the doubles event. The individual championships will be held May 20-25, also at Baylor.

In other quarterfinals action, defending champion and seventh-seeded UCLA (22-4) took out No. 2 North Carolina 4-1. The match was played at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center because of early rain. UCLA beat North Carolina 4-3 in last year's championship match at Athens. Sixth-seeded Georgia (24-6) was a 4-1 winner against No. 14 Stanford, in a match also played indoors.

The USC-Vanderbilt and Georgia-UCLA semifinals will each begin at 6 p.m. ET Monday, with the championship match slated for Tuesday.

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