Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Valeria Corral played an epic match at No. 3, narrowly falling short in a third-set tiebreak after three and a half hours.

No. 18 Tritons Outlasted in Thriller by Defending Division III National Champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 18 University of California San Diego women's tennis team was edged in an absolute thriller by reigning NCAA Division III national champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 4-3, at Northview Tennis Courts on Sunday.

UC San Diego rounds out a busy opening weekend still searching for its first win of the new campaign at 0-3. The Tritons in succession since Friday played 13th-ranked Division II rival Azusa Pacific, Division I Cal Poly and CMS, ranked No. 1 in Division III. The Athenas (4-0) also wrapped up an initial weekend that saw them contest all four matches since Friday. They had won last year's matchup, the Tritons' season opener, 6-3 in Claremont. CMS went on to a first national crown, at home as well.

The match took almost four and a half hours to complete after a slightly-delayed 12:13 p.m. start due to some light rain which thankfully went away and did not return. UC San Diego junior Valeria Corral's (San Diego/Mater Dei Catholic HS) tilt at No. 3 singles, by itself, lasted more than three and a half hours, with CMS sophomore Rebecca Berger ultimately squeaking out the match-clinching result, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Berger is ranked No. 38 nationally in singles in Division III.

"It was probably one of the best matches I've ever seen," remarked 40th-year UC San Diego head coach Liz LaPlante, who herself led the Tritons to four Division III national titles before moving up to Division II in 2001. "I don't think she could have played a better match. Her opponent was amazing, also. It could have gone either way, until the very end, and we're just really proud of her. She couldn't have played any better."

The day began way back when with the Tritons earning their first doubles victories of 2019, and subsequently their first doubles point. Senior Chloe Wight and freshman Shweta Kumar made quick work of Sydney Lee and Juliette Martin at No. 3, 6-0. Kumar actually unleashed the second of her two service aces in the final game, at deuce on match point, with no-ad scoring existing in college tennis.

A short time later at No. 1, third-year partners Ashley Chao (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) and Becky Chou downed Catherine Allen and Caroline Cox, the No. 1 duo in the nation in Division III, 6-2. Senior Madison Hale and freshman Anu Bhadada (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) dropped the final doubles match at No. 2, 6-4.

Singles began right around 12:50 p.m., with Corral and Berger wrapping up at 4:29 p.m. With Corral involved in several lengthy rallies for a second straight day in singles, they were still early in the second set when singles All-American Chou completed her come-from-behind victory at No. 2 over Lee. Lee, ranked 37th in Division III, took the first set, 6-2, before Chou stormed back to win the next two, 6-1, 6-4, and even the match score at 3-3.

That decisive set went back and forth, with Chou down 2-1, then up 3-2, and down again at 4-3, before breaking Lee's service for a 4-4 tie and closing her opponent out.

Early singles results had Kumar (6-4, 6-0) and Bhadada (6-2, 6-3) suffering straight-set losses to Cox and Sarah Bahsoun, ranked 15th and 20th regionally in Division III, respectively. In between, Wight cruised to a 6-1, 6-1, triumph at No. 6 in her singles debut for 2019, as the fourth-year Triton is still on her way back from an injury.

Chao came up just short in her second-set tiebreaker at No. 1 against Allen, No. 26 in Division III for singles, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).

In Corral's third set, she was up 3-0 before Berger levelled matters at 3-3. Corral broke service to regain a slim 4-3 advantage, and actually served for the match at 5-4. Berger extended things, however, and it was Corral who had to force the tiebreak at 6-6. Berger nabbed the first two points there, but Corral tallied the following two. Down by three moments later at 6-3, Corral turned aside one match point, but not the other, as Berger finally put a cap on an epic affair.

Earlier, Corral teamed with fellow junior Brittany Newton in a fourth doubles matchup that did not count toward the official record, winning 6-3 with Newton's parents on hand all weekend from her hometown of Dallas, Texas.

The Tritons were without fourth-year senior Alexandra Weil, who plays at No. 2 in singles and doubles, for the second consecutive day. Weil returned home to Denver, Colo., following Friday's meeting with APU, to accept her 2018 United States Tennis Association (USTA) Colorado Female Player of the Year Award on Saturday night.

"This is a match we definitely could have won," added LaPlante, "Ashley (Chao) had a chance to win her match (at No. 1 singles). If we had Alex (Weil), it could have been a different story, but not having my No. 2 player in singles or in doubles, it was obviously going to be a tougher match. This has gotten us ready for Point Loma coming up, and the remainder of our season."

UC San Diego continues a season-long seven-match homestand this coming Thursday, Feb. 14, hosting 21st-ranked Division II West Region and city rival Point Loma. The Tritons edged out the Sea Lions for the West's fourth and final berth into the 2018 NCAA Championship. Doubles action is set to begin at 2 p.m., weather permitting, with rain expected. Admission is free on North Campus in La Jolla.

#1 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 4, #18 UC San Diego 3
Feb. 10, 2019 at La Jolla, CA (Northview Tennis Courts)

Doubles competition
1. Ashley Chao/Becky Chou (UCSD) def. #1 Catherine Allen/Caroline Cox (CMS) 6-2
2. Sarah Bahsoun/Nicole Tan (CMS) def. Anu Bhadada/Madison Hale (UCSD) 6-4
3. Shweta Kumar/Chloe Wight (UCSD) def. Sydney Lee/Juliette Martin (CMS) 6-0

Singles competition
1. #26 Catherine Allen (CMS) def. Ashley Chao (UCSD) 6-2, 7-6 (7-2)
2. Becky Chou (UCSD) def. #37 Sydney Lee (CMS) 2-6, 6-1, 6-4
3. #38 Rebecca Berger (CMS) def. Valeria Corral (UCSD) 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
4. Caroline Cox (CMS) def. Shweta Kumar (UCSD) 6-4, 6-0
5. Sarah Bahsoun (CMS) def. Anu Bhadada (UCSD) 6-2, 6-3
6. Chloe Wight (UCSD) def. Madison Shea (CMS) 6-1, 6-1

Match Notes
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 4-0; National ranking #1; Regional ranking #1
UC San Diego 0-3; National ranking #18; Regional ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (4,6,5,1,2,3)
CMS top-ranked reigning NCAA Division III national champion
T-4:16 A-65

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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