Castellvi wins, reaches semis

Top-seeded Vilmarie Castellvi of the University of Tennessee beat No. 22 Mira Radu of Ole Miss 6-4, 6-1 Thursday to make the semifinal round of the NCAA Women's Singles Championships at Gainesville, Fla.

Georgia's Agata Cioroch, ranked No. 3 and seeded fourth, defeated California's No. 6-ranked and seeded Raquel Kops-Jones by a 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-2 count to set up another all-SEC showdown for Castellvi in Friday morning's semis at 9 a.m.

''There were a lot of tough matches going on, and I'm definitely glad I got off the court with a straight-set win,'' Castellvi said. ''Anything can happen when you get to this round, so I'm glad to just get through it and advance to tomorrow in straight sets.''

Castellvi came out sizzling, dictating every rally and she quickly found herself with a 3-0 advantage in the first set. Radu got on the board by holding serve in the fourth game by fighting off a 30-40 deficit with three straight points. The match went back on serve after Radu broke Castellvi the next game to cut the UT lead to 3-2 heading to the changeover. For the remainder of the set, neither player could hold serve, which was fine for Castellvi as it allowed her to take the first stanza, 6-4.

In the second set, Castellvi began grinding out every point, which took its toll on Radu's mental focus. With a 2-0 lead, Radu was up 40-0 on her serve, but Castellvi fought back to place the game at deuce. In the blink of an eye, Castellvi grabbed a 3-0 advantage and cruised through the remainder of the set. Radu was able to hold serve in the sixth game, but Castellvi won four straight points the next round to end the match.

''It was a really competitive match despite what the score might read,'' said Castellvi following the win. ''She's a really tough player, and every match we've played against each other has been tough. I knew that it was going to come down to the important points, and I knew I'd have to win those. I did and that was the difference in the match.''

The victory extended Castellvias unbeaten streak to 23 matches and upped her overall record on the year to 44-4. She also improved to 38-4 against ranked opponents, including a 19-1 mark versus those ranked in the Top-25. Castellvi has won 33 of 34 matches this spring with her lone loss coming to the tournamentas No. 2 seed, Christelle Grier of Northwestern. Ranked ninth nationally, Grier was knocked out of the quarterfinals by Southern California's Jewel Peterson, seeded fifth and ranked 10th, by scores of 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. Peterson will take on No. 7 seed and fourth-rated Amber Liu of Stanford÷who bettered Alice Pirsu of Penn, 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, in the quarters÷for the other semifinal contest.

Castellvi and Cioroch met once during the spring, when Tennessee recorded only its fourth victory in school history over Georgia by a lopsided 7-0 score. The matchup at No. 1 singles was the marquee spectacle of the dual match since Castellvi and Cioroch were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country at the time. The contest did not live up to its billing, though, as Castellvi dominated Cioroch, 6-3, 6-0, winning eight games in a row to close out her victory.

By reaching the semifinals, Castellvi became the first Lady Vol to advance beyond the quarters in the singles tourney. Shannon Kagawa and Mandy Wilson made the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship for Tennessee in 1992, the furthest of any UT tandem. Previously, Castellvi and Stacey Martin were the only Big Orange players to see the quarterfinals of the singles competition, with Castellvi doing the honors in 2002 and 2003, and Martin accomplishing the feat in 1989.

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