The Wildcats' Grier and Rush, the number five seed in the tournament, is the highest seed remaining in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Doubles Tournament in Athens, Georgia. The Northwestern pair defeated Maria Brito and Julie Coin of Clemson, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, Wednesday afternoon.
Marshall jumped on the Michigan tandem early, defeating the Wolverines rather easily in the first set, 6-1. Michigan responded in the second, taking the last two games of the second set to even the match with a 6-4 decision. The Wolverines took a 4-2 lead in the third set, but MU rallied, winning the next four games to move on. "This is unbelievable," said Kroh, a junior for the Herd, told Marshall Sports Information. "Our energy was down a little in the second set, and we became too tentative with our shots. It carried over to the third set, but we had a talk and told ourselves that we've got to turn it around and get more aggressive. We did that, and luckily it worked out for us."
"It was tight today," said head coach John Mercer at the Marshall website, www.herdzone.com. "In the third set, down 4-2, we made one little adjustment and got two breaks in a row. We tried two in the back and changed things up a bit. Fortunately it worked out for us. We've been capable of coming back all year, and it was amazing to see these two kick it into another gear. If they were going down, they were going down swinging." The victory also guarantees All-American status to both Johnson and Kroh because of their Elite Eight finish.
The Herd's match will take place no earlier than 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Doubles play immediately follows the NCAA Singles Championship, which gets underway at noon. Only three of the top ten seeds remain in doubles play: the number five seed from Northwestern University, Grier and Rush, who will play Johnson-Kroh; number seven Vanderbilt; and number eight Washington. "The first set was pretty close, then (Clemson) started turning it up in the second," said Rush told the NCAA Tennis site. "Third set, we really turned it up."
Grier, who will have to play singles against the player from Clemson, Coin, at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, spoke about meeting a player in singles that you just defeated in doubles the day before. "It's tough with the weather, but it was tough on her, too," said Grier of the Clemson Tiger player she will face, before meeting the Herd in doubles. "It showed me what (Coin) can do. She's got some big serves. But (singles and doubles) are such different games." Grier and Rush were ranked number three in the nation in the last Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and Grier is the number eight seed in the NCAA Singles.
Mercer believes the Northwestern pair is by far the best doubles team left in the field. "They have a really good doubles team," Mercer told The Herald-Dispatch newspaper in Huntington in Thursday's edition. "They've played quite a few years together and they are always in the finals or semifinals of the national tournament, their team is solid and the Grier girl is really good in a lot of ways. Jessica and Ashley showed a lot of character out there," said Mercer of the come from behind win. They had to earn it the hard way today." Mercer and his team hope a potentially long singles match in the Georgia heat might work to Marshall's advantage in the doubles match that will follow Grier's individual match with Coin of Clemson. "We're just going to go out and do what we've been doing the whole time and see what happens," Kroh told The Herald-Dispatch. "I think we have a shot if we play our best."
Thursday, May 27-Quarterfinals
(No Matches Will Start Before 2:30 p.m., Due To NCAA Singles Play, beginning at 1:00 p.m.)
Megan Muth and Amy Wei, William & Mary-Atlantic 10 Conference vs. Kelly Schmandt and Aleke Tsoubanos (7), Vanderbilt-Southeastern Conference
Linda Tran and Sarah Batty, Indiana-Big Ten Conference vs. Daniela Bercek and Lauren Fisher, UCLA-Pacific 10 Conference
Claire Carter and Dea Sumantri (8), Washington-Pacific 10 Conference vs. Maja Kovacek and Sandy Lukowski, New Mexico-Mountain West Conference
Cristelle Grier and Jessica Rush (5), Northwestern-Big Ten Conference vs. Jessica Johnson and Ashley Kroh, Marshall-Mid-American Conference