Unlike the first two meetings, Vanderbilt was able to snatch the doubles point from the Lady Vols. Its first victory occurred at one doubles, where the third-ranked duo of Sarah Riske and Aleke Tsoubanos upended UT's No. 5-ranked combo of senior Vilmarie Castellvi and freshman Melissa Schaub, 8-3. It was Castellvi and Schaub's second straight loss to the Vandy tandem.
Tennessee responded with a win at the No. 2 hole thanks to senior Crystal Cleveland and rookie Sabita Maharaj's 8-6 decision over 37th-rated Audra Falk and Kelly Schmandt. The win upped the team's record on the year to 16-3 in dual match play and 2-0 at the position in the NCAA Tournament.
As the focus shifted to Court 3, UT's Tammy Encina and sophomore Breanna Kray fell by an 8-6 score to Annie Menees and Kori Scott, giving Vandy a 1-0 lead in the match.
Castellvi, the nation's No. 1-ranked player, knotted the match up at 1-1 after she defeated No. 17 Riske at the top slot for the third time this year in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. With the victory, Castellvi earned her 40th win of the season, marking her second consecutive campaign with at least 40 triumphs. The Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native also moved to 17-1 this year versus opponents ranked in the Top 25 and extended her winning streak to 19 matches.
Vandy regained the lead, 2-1, after Falk registered a 6-3, 6-3 win over Schaub at No. 4 singles. The loss ended Schaub's record for the year at 22-18 and 16-11 in dual matches.
The No. 59th-rated Encina deadlocked the match once again at two apiece when she took down No. 80 Tsoubanos at two singles, 6-4, 6-2. It was the Miami Beach, Fla., native's third conquest of Tsoubanos this year. Encina improved to 24-14 with the victory and grabbed her sixth straight win over a ranked foe in the process.
The Commodores struck back at the No. 5 spot, where the 122nd-rated Ashley Schellhas ousted Maharaj in a three-setter, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. It was Maharajâs first loss in the NCAA Tournament and ended her mark on the year at 16-14.
Trailing 3-2, the Big Orange got a lift at six singles when sophomore Ashley Robards bounced back from a 6-4 setback in the first frame to defeat Menees. A native of Henderson, Ky., Robards breezed through the second and third sets, 6-1, 6-2. She concluded her second year with UT at 21-13, including a 16-6 showing in dual matches.
The lone match that remained was on Court 3, where No. 51 Cleveland had rebounded from a dismal 6-0 performance versus Schmandt in the first set with a 6-3 victory in the second. The contest remained on serve after seven games with Cleveland leading, 4-3, at the changeover.
In the following game, Schmandt followed suit once again by holding serve after a grueling game. Cleveland fell behind in the next game, 15-40, but managed to save one game point before her opponent claimed the 5-4 edge. Although Schmandt would have the opportunity to serve things out, the Tennessee faithful remained behind Cleveland, and rightfully so, as she entered the match with a 7-1 record in three sets this season.
The 10th round of the set looked bleak for the Orange and White after Schmandt went up quickly by a 40-0 count, but Cleveland would not go away quietly. The Delray Beach, Fla., native continued to grind and run down balls, constantly forcing Schmandt to hit one more shot. Cleveland was able to extend the game to deuce, but the next two rallies belonged to Vanderbilt, as did the match.
''Crystal's nerves made it more of a grueling match for her physically, and the same for Kelly too,'' said UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick. ''I thought towards the end it was starting to become more of a mental battle than a physical one. Really, I did not feel like it was as hot or humid as it has been here in the past.
''I think score-wise, it looked like they got off to a little bit of a slower start. I don't feel so much that our team got off to a slower start as I did feel that Vandy came out more ready to play.''
Castellvi, Cleveland, Encina and Schaub will now await the draw for the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, which are scheduled to be released on May 17. With Castellvi, Cleveland and Encina in the single tourney, UT established a new school record for participants in one year. Castellvi and Schaub will also team up for the doubles as well. The singles tournament begins on May 19, while the doubles kicks off the next day. Both championship matches will be contested on May 24. The title bouts will be aired on ESPN2 on May 25 at 2 p.m.