May 22, 2004
Athens, Ga. - The ninth-seeded UCLA women's tennis team advanced to its first NCAA Final since 1991 Saturday, upsetting fifth-seeded Clemson, 4-0 in the NCAA Semifinals at the University of Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex. UCLA (21-7) will meet second-seeded Stanford (27-0) in Sunday's championship match beginning at Noon (EST).
A day after pulling out a come-from-behind victory against unseeded Miami, UCLA surprisingly had a much easier time against the higher-seeded Clemson. The Bruins started the match on a high note, taking victories on court Nos. 1 and 3 to claim the one point awarded for doubles play.
The Bruins were able to carry that momentum into singles play, posting first-set wins of four of six courts. First to finish was court No. 5, where Bruin junior Lauren Fisher recorded a 6-2, 6-2 decision over Ioana Paun. Sophomore Feriel Esseghir then put UCLA ahead 3-0 in the match when she dropped just three games en route to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Alix Lacelarie at the No. 3 position.
For the second day in a row UCLA's Daniela Bercek clinched the match at the No. 1 position for UCLA, this time defeating sixth-ranked Julie Coin, 6-2, 6-1. On Friday, Bercek upset fourth-ranked MeganBradley of Miami, giving the Bruins a 4-3 victory.
"This was an exciting and great match today," UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster said. "This team has never been in the final four before. Clemson made us fight and we are just really glad to be here. (Going to the finals) has always been a goal of mine. Now we have a chance to win the championship, and we are not going to be satisfied without winning it."
When play was suspended, Bruin sophomore Laura Gordon was up 7-5, 2-1 in her match at the No. 6 spot. Jackie Carleton was up 5-2 at the No. 2 position and Sarah Gregg had lost the first set and was down 4-3 in the second set at the No. 4 spot.
"Our hats are off to UCLA," said Clemson coach Nancy Harris. "They played great and we just weren't good enough to get the win today. UCLA was doing all the right things today. They just kept coming at us and coming at us. We just didn't seem to have our legs underneath us and have the usual bounce in our step."
UCLA, which has never won an NCAA title in women's tennis, has advanced to the final on three previous occasions (1982, 1989 and 1991). The Bruins won the national championship in 1981, however that was one year prior to the NCAA becoming the governing body of women's tennis.
UCLA and Stanford have already faced off three times this season, with the Cardinal winning all three meetings. Stanford defeated UCLA, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors in February. The Cardinal also won 7-0 in the Bay Area on Apr. 3 and 5-2 in Los Angeles on Apr. 16. The Bruins lost to Vanderbilt, 5-2 in a consolation match at the National Team Indoors.
The NCAA Final will air on ESPN2, May 25 at Noon (PST).
|1.||(23) Bercek/Fisher (UCLA) def. (31) Alvarez/Brito (Clemson)||8-1|
|2.||Coin/Lacelarie (Clemson) def. (43) Carleton/Esseghir (UCLA)||9-7|
|3.||Gordon/Gregg (UCLA) def. Richele LaSaldo/Rombouts (Clemson)||8-6|
|UCLA Wins Doubles Point|
|1.||(31) Daniela Bercek (UCLA) def. (6) Julie Coin (Clemson)||6-2, 6-1*|
|2.||(18) Jackie Carleton (UCLA) vs. (68) Daniela Alvarez (Clemson)||Susp.|
|3.||Feriel Esseghir (UCLA) def. Alix Lacelarie (Clemson)||6-2, 6-1|
|4.||Sarah Gregg (UCLA) vs. (96) Maria Brito (Clemson)||Susp.|
|5.||Lauren Fisher (UCLA) def. Ioana Paun (Clemson)||6-2, 6-2|
|6.||Laura Gordon (UCLA) vs. Karen Rombouts (Clemson)||Susp.|
|* Denotes Clinching Match - Singles Order of Finish: 5,3,1|