No. 31 UC San Diego Hosts D-III Power Williams Monday Before Three-Match NorCal Trip
The 31st-ranked University of California San Diego women's tennis program, fresh off winter quarter final exams, has a busy four-match Spring Break ahead this week. The Tritons (4-5) host fifth-ranked Division III power Williams College (2-4) on Monday, March 25, at 12 p.m. Admission is free into Northview Tennis Courts on North Campus, but parking permits are required. They then travel up to Northern California for three contests in three days. Wednesday's noon matchup with Holy Names (7-6) at Mills College in Oakland will finally mark UC San Diego's first 2019 date away from home after 10 straight in La Jolla for openers. Thursday's tilt with another Division II foe Dominican (3-8) in San Rafael has an 11 a.m. start. The trip ends Friday morning with a 10 a.m. meeting with future Division I and Big West Conference rival UC Davis (3-9).
UC San Diego is coming off back-to-back, narrow 4-3 losses to then-top-five-ranked Division II opponents in No. 5 Academy of Art and No. 4 Hawai'i Pacific to begin March.
HOME MATCH POLICIES
Admission into regular-season contests at Northview Tennis Courts is free, but parking is only free on weekends. Parking permits can be purchased at machines located in all lots. Fans are encouraged to arrive early on weekday afternoons, as parking could be impacted with classes in session. This week is Spring Break, so parking should not be an issue Monday for Williams' visit. Parking options include the large oval separating Northview Tennis Courts and Triton Track & Field Stadium, the lot behind the Triton Soccer Stadium stands, or if both areas are full, the Hopkins Parking Structure behind RIMAC.
ABOUT THE OPPONENTS
Williams College is from Williamstown, Mass. The Ephs are record 10-time Division III national champions, with the Tritons of course four-time victors before their departure for Division II. Williams most recently took home the trophy in 2015 and 2017 after a record run of six straight titles from 2008-13. Last year, the Ephs advanced to the national semifinals for the 12th successive season, falling 5-3 at first-year champion and host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. It was their only loss, finishing 21-1. UC San Diego was edged by top-ranked CMS 4-3 in La Jolla on Feb. 10. The Tritons will join UC Davis in Big West play for the 2021 dual-match season.
UC San Diego lost 5-2 at home to UC Davis last season on Feb. 4. The Tritons later defeated Dominican 8-1 on March 4 and fell to Williams 7-2 on March 26, both also in La Jolla. They did not play any of these next four opponents during the 2016-17 campaign, but in 2016, lost 7-2 to UCD at home and blanked Holy Names 9-0 in Oakland.
UC SAN DIEGO LINEUP
UC San Diego has six returners and two true freshmen making up its 2018-19 roster. Back is the No. 1 doubles tandem of fourth-year senior Ashley Chao (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) and junior All-American Becky Chou, who were also the primary No. 1 and No. 2 singles players a season ago, respectively. Fourth-year seniors Madison Hale, Alexandra Weil and Chloe Wight join them, as well as junior Valeria Corral (San Diego/Mater Dei Catholic HS). Anu Bhadada (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) and Shweta Kumar are the two rookies.
Chao is still at No. 1 in singles, with Weil (No. 2) and Chou (No. 3) switching places. Corral has mostly been at No. 4. Wight has solidified the No. 5 position since her return from injury, with Kumar or Bhadada generally playing on the No. 6 court. Weil and Wight both began the dual year a perfect 5-0 before losing for the first time. Chou was a winner of six straight dual contests before being upended on March 8. Corral is on a current team-best win streak of five in a row, all at No. 4.
In doubles, Chao and Chou are at No. 1 again with a 5-3 mark. Hale and Weil are teaming up for a fourth consecutive year, having moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 last season. They are 5-2 and had won four straight prior to March 7. Kumar and Wight are 3-4 at No. 3.
UC San Diego, No. 31 nationally as of March 20, is rated No. 4 in the season's first Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) West Region poll, released on Jan. 16. The Tritons face off with eight of the other nine teams in the top 10 (all but Hawai'i Hilo), for a total of 10 matches in 2019. They are an even 3-3 thus far against that group. In the individual regional rankings back on Nov. 14, seniors Alexandra Weil and Chloe Wight were No. 10 and No. 13, respectively, in singles.
MILESTONE 40 FOR COACH LIZ
This season marks the milestone 40th of legendary head coach Liz LaPlante in charge of the UC San Diego women's tennis program. She is the longest-tenured coach on the Triton staff, with fellow San Diego State graduate Denny Harper having completed his 39th year at the helm of the men's water polo team. LaPlante has led UC San Diego to four national championships (1985, 1987, 1989, 1994) and five national runner-up efforts (1982, 1984, 1990, 1995, 2000), all at the NCAA Division III level, as well as seven California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) banners, all in succession between 2004-10, before the league stopped sponsoring tennis. The four national titles are still the third-most in Division III history. LaPlante's all-time dual-match record stands at 580-294. She has recorded winning seasons and posted double-digit victory totals in all but five of her campaigns. Her teams have had 20 or more wins on five occasions. The San Diego Union-Feature featured LaPlante in January. Read Tod Leonard's piece here.
Fourth-year seniors Ashley Chao, Madison Hale and Alexandra Weil have each achieved the milestone 50th dual-match doubles victory of their careers this season. Hale and Weil collected theirs together in a 7-0 home victory over Redlands back on Feb. 16. All 54 of their doubles wins have come together as four-year partners. Only Hale has played with anyone else, Feb. 9 and Feb. 10 of this season with freshman Anu Bhadada, with Weil back home in Denver, Colo., to accept an award. Their record as a tandem is now 54-20. Chao's win No. 50 came in another 7-0 team triumph at home, over city rival Point Loma on Feb. 27. That was with third-year partner Becky Chou, with 36 of those 50 now coming with her. Chao's dual-match doubles record is 50-24.
UC San Diego captains this season are senior Madison Hale and junior Becky Chou, as voted on by their Triton teammates. Alexandra Weil, like Hale a fourth-year senior, is a member of the Triton Athletes' Council (TAC) Executive Board, in charge of fundraising. She returned home to Denver, Colo., following the season opener against Azusa Pacific, to accept the 2018 USTA Colorado Female Player of the Year Award. Weil was also recently recognized as a Sportswomen of Colorado Outstanding Achievement in Tennis - College honoree.
In continuing efforts to better standardize college tennis across all NCAA levels and shorten the length of matches, the Tritons face a couple of changes in 2019. Doubles now goes to six games and not eight, just like singles. You still have to win by two games, with a tiebreak (to seven, win by two points) coming into play at 6-6. The three doubles matches result in a single point, to whichever team wins two. An existing manuever is that there is no-ad (advantage) scoring in NCAA tennis, meaning the first point after a 40-40 deuce score, ends that game. Contests still begin with doubles, followed by a five-minute break, and then singles.
On Nov. 27, 2017, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a member of the NCAA Division I Big West Conference. The Tritons begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020, and will play a full Big West schedule that season. During the transition, UC San Diego will be eligible for the NCAA Championship in men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, and men's and women's fencing. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Men's volleyball became an associate member of the Big West for the 2018 season, and women's water polo will join the conference in the spring of 2020. Read the full press release here.
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Upon its return from Northern California, UC San Diego will face four consecutive matches against top Division II West Region foes, beginning at No. 9 Azusa Pacific on Saturday, April 6, at 1:30 p.m. The Tritons dropped a 4-2 decision to the then-13th-ranked Cougars in their opener at home back on Feb. 8.
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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