GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The 10th-seeded Vanderbilt women's tennis team (21-5) came up with its best when it mattered most, as the Commodores upset the seventh-seeded Lady Volunteers of Tennessee (22-7), 4-3, in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 on the Varsity Courts of the Ring Tennis Complex. The Commodores had dropped their previous three matches to the Lady Volunteers, including a loss in last year's Sweet 16.
The win sets up a rematch between the Commodores and host Florida, which defeated Arizona State Thursday. Vanderbilt defeated the Lady Gators back on March 16 in Nashville, 4-3. The victory gave the Commodores their first win over the Gators in 28 attempts.
The star of the Tennessee match was junior Kelly Schmandt (Santa Barbara, Calif.), who gutted out a three-set marathon with 51st-ranked Crystal Cleveland at the No. 3 position, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4. After splitting the first two sets, both players battled back-and-forth in the third. Schmandt's break finally came in the ninth game of the set, as she was able to break Cleveland's serve and take a 5-4 lead. With all the pressure on Schmandt to hold her serve, she was able to grind out a long game and win the match. Schmandt improves to 23-4 in singles matches this year. Cleveland had been a perfect 11-0 in SEC dual matches this season prior to her loss on Thursday.
Vanderbilt's third-ranked team of senior Sarah Riske (McMurray, Pa.) and junior Aleke Tsoubanos (Chesterfield, Mo.) got things going at the No. 1 position, as they defeated the fifth-ranked team of Vilmarie Castellvi and Melissa Schaub, 8-3. It is Riske and Tsoubanos' second straight win over Tennessee's top doubles duo. The win also gives them their 30th doubles victory of the 2002-03 season.
The Lady Volunteers rebounded at No. 2 doubles, as Crystal Cleveland and Sabita Maharaj defeated Vanderbilt's 37th-ranked team of Schmandt and sophomore Audra Falk (Cincinnati, Ohio), 8-6.
The decisive match pitted Vanderbilt junior Kori Scott (Houston, Texas) and sophomore Annie Menees (St. Louis, Mo.) against Tammy Encina and Breanna Kray. Scott and Menees surged out to a 7-4 lead in the pro-set, but had to hold off a late charge by the Tennessee duo to win the match and the point, 8-6.
The Lady Volunteers evened the team score up a 1-1 when the top-ranked Castellvi defeated the 17th-ranked Riske in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. This is the third time Castellvi has defeated Riske in 2003. Castellvi improved her dual-match to 24-1, while Riske fell to 19-6.
The Commodores regained the advantage when Falk scored a straight-set victory over Schaub at the No. 4 position, 6-3, 6-3. Falk has now defeated Schaub twice in the last month, as the other win came in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Falk has now amassed an 24-4 overall record in 2002-03. She has also compiled a 45-9 singles record over her first two seasons at Vanderbilt.
Tennessee bounced right back at the No. 2 position, as the 57th-ranked Encina scored a straight-set win against the 80th-ranked Tsoubanos, 6-4, 6-2. For Encina, it is her second time in the last month to defeat Tsoubanos. Tsoubanos is now 18-5 in dual matches in 2003.
At the No. 5 position, Vanderbilt freshman Ashley Schellhas (Edina, Minn.), who has been one of the biggest surprises this season for the Commodores, battled by Sabita Majarah in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Schellhas is now 26-4 for the 2002-03 season, which includes an 18-2 dual-match record.
The Lady Volunteers knotted the team score up at 3-3, when Ashley Robards battled back from one set down to Menees at No. 6, 4-6, 6-X, 6-2.