No. 22 Tritons Host No. 5 ART U Thursday, No 4 Hawai'i Pacific Friday, Both at 3 p.m.
The 22nd-ranked University of California San Diego women's tennis program faces back-to-back home dates against undefeated opponents ranked in the top five in the NCAA Division II who were national quarterfinalists a year ago. Both contests are at Northview Tennis Courts on North Campus, with admission free but parking permits required. The Tritons (4-3) were supposed to begin this challenging week on Wednesday against top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Barry (5-0), but that matchup was canceled by rain and will not be made up. The week continues against No. 5 Academy of Art (3-0) on Thursday, March 7, and a second West Region foe in No. 4 Hawai'i Pacific (3-0) on Friday, March 8. Those matches are still slated for 3 p.m. starts. The other three teams will also face each other in what was effectively to amount to a round-robin tournament, weather pending. UC San Diego is 4-3 following a home stretch that has now extended into a season-long, season-opening 10-match homestand, since last Saturday's intended trip to Cal State LA was canceled due to rain. The Tritons are winners of four straight.
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. 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
Barry University is from Miami Shores, Fla., and has compiled four of eight crowns and a national runner-up effort since 2011. Academy of Art, located in San Francisco, lost to Barry 5-2 in last year's quarterfinals. Hawai'i Pacific reached the 2018 semifinals. UC San Diego played HPU three times a year ago, losing 7-0 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i, before taking a narrow 5-4 decision at home. The Sharks grabbed the rubber match, 5-1, to open the NCAA Championship at home in Honolulu, Hawai'i. UC San Diego last faced Academy of Art on March 17, 2017, winning 5-1 at home. The Tritons' most recent meeting with Barry was a 9-0 home loss on March 4, 2014. The Buccaneers went on to win their second national title that season.
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 Bhadada or Kumar generally playing on the No. 6 court. Chou, Weil and Wight are each winners of five dual matches in a row, with Weil and Wight both a perfect 5-0.
In doubles, Chao and Chou are at No. 1 again with a 5-1 mark and five straight wins. Hale and Weil are teaming up for a fourth consecutive year, having moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 last season. They are 4-1 with four successive victories. Kumar and Wight are an even 3-3 at No. 3.
UC San Diego, No. 22 nationally, is rated No. 4 in the season's first Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) West Region poll, released on Jan. 16. Upcoming opponents Hawai'i Pacific (No. 1) and Academy of Art (No. 2) take up the top two spots in the regional listing. 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. 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 580-292. 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 50 of those wins have come together as four-year doubles 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 53-19. 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 50-22.
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.
For the latest in Triton athletic gear, make sure to visit ucsdtritonsgear.com. Run by UC San Diego Athletics' online partner Advanced-Online, the site provides an on-demand option for Triton athletic apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 600 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours.
FOR THE YOUNGER CROWD
Got some young Triton fans in your family? If they are in eighth grade or younger, check out the Junior Triton Club. Membership includes a free t-shirt, admission to over 100 UC San Diego home athletic events, and much more!
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UC San Diego will be idle for a while following Friday's match, as the Tritons prepare for winter quarter final exams, March 16-23. They return to action at home against fourth-ranked Division III powerhouse Williams College on Monday, March 25, at 12 p.m.
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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For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Women's Tennis, follow on Instagram (@ucsdwomenstennis).