Back Half of Singles Lineup Excels but No. 22 UC San Diego Comes Up Just Short Against No. 4 HPU, 4-3
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 22 University of California San Diego women's tennis team won at the final three singles spots, but it wasn't quite enough to take down No. 4 Hawai'i Pacific University, as the Tritons were narrowly topped 4-3 at Northview Tennis Courts on Friday afternoon.
With a second 4-3 home loss to a top-five foe in as many days, UC San Diego dropped to 4-5. Hawai'i Pacific improved to 5-1. The Sharks are No. 1 and the Tritons No. 4 in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) West Region poll. HPU, in Honolulu, Hawai'i, made it all the way to the semifinals of the 2018 NCAA Championship.
UC San Diego also lost 4-3 to No. 5 Academy of Art on Thursday, after getting rained out against top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Barry on Wednesday. HPU leaves La Jolla having defeated ART U (4-2) and the Tritons, around a 4-1 loss Thursday to Barry.
The teams faced off three times last year, with the Sharks winning twice, including a 5-1 home decision to begin the NCAA Championship. The Tritons had edged out a 5-4 triumph in La Jolla last March 9, when they were No. 14 and HPU was again No. 4.
Junior All-American and co-captain Becky Chou had her six-match win streak in singles snapped through a 6-3, 7-5, defeat to Mihoki Miyahara at No. 3.
Doubles began with Chou and senior Ashley Chao (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) falling 6-4 to Elodie Busson and Elisa Elhadj at No. 1. The third-year pair turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead before surrendering the next four games. The Tritons evened things up at No. 2 as seniors Madison Hale and Alexandra Weil got past Miyahara and Heloise Le Normand, 6-3. Hale celebrated her birthday on Wednesday.
The doubles point thus came down to the No. 3 court. UC San Diego held a match point that it was unable to capitalize on, which proved to be the difference at the end of the day. Freshman Shweta Kumar and senior Chloe Wight led 5-4 and had a deuce point for the match, but HPU knotted the score at 5-5.
Debora Echeverria and Sarah Ikioka later broke Kumar's service to send the contest to a tiebreak at 6-6. The extra tennis began with consecutive smashes for points by Wight, whose birthday is Saturday, and then Kumar for 2-0. The Tritons would go on to lead by 3-0 and 4-1 counts. The Sharks levelled again at 4-4 around the break. Kumar broke that tie, but the visitors eventually outlasted the hosts to go up, 1-0.
All three Triton duos were ahead 4-3 late.
In singles, Hawai'i Pacific swiftly grabbed the No. 1 and No. 2 spots through Busson (6-1, 6-4) and Elhadj (6-3, 6-2) over Chao and Weil, respectively, for a 3-0 bulge. Kumar's win at No. 6 (6-2, 6-4) over Le Normand put the Tritons on the board. Miyahara's matchup with Chou was the clincher, at 4-1.
By that time, Wight had started her third set at No. 5 after splitting the first two with Nicole Ballach, 3-6, 6-2, and junior Valeria Corral (San Diego/Mater Dei Catholic HS) was leading late in her second set at No. 4.
Corral beat Echeverria via tiebreak, 6-1, 7-6 (7-2), for her current team-best fifth singles success in a row. The action ended with Wight completing her comeback by taking her third set, 6-3. She had broken Echeverria to go up 4-1 in the second.
"So close," remarked legendary 40th-year UC San Diego head coach Liz LaPlante. "We had a match point at No. 3 doubles to win the doubles point. Our 4-5-6 singles played great to give us the three points. I'm proud of my team. We need to keep improving and working hard in the second half of the season."
UC San Diego now takes a break for winter quarter final exams, March 16-23, and will finally conclude a season-long, season-opening 10-match homestand against fourth-ranked Division III powerhouse Williams College on Monday, March 25. Action will begin at 12 p.m. at Northview Tennis Courts on North Campus in La Jolla. Admission is free, but parking permits are required.
#4 Hawai'i Pacific 4, #22 UC San Diego 3
March 8, 2019 at La Jolla, CA (Northview Tennis Courts)
1. Elodie Busson/Elisa Elhadj (HPU) def. Ashley Chao/Becky Chou (UCSD) 6-4
2. Madison Hale/Alexandra Weil (UCSD) def. Heloise Le Normand/Mihoki Miyahara (HPU) 6-3
3. Debora Echeverria/Sarah Ikioka (HPU) def. Shweta Kumar/Chloe Wight (UCSD) 7-6 (8-6)
1. Elodie Busson (HPU) def. Ashley Chao (UCSD) 6-1, 6-4
2. Elisa Elhadj (HPU) def. Alexandra Weil (UCSD) 6-3, 6-2
3. Mihoki Miyahara (HPU) def. Becky Chou (UCSD) 6-3, 7-5
4. Valeria Corral (UCSD) def. Debora Echeverria (HPU) 6-1, 7-6 (7-2)
5. Chloe Wight (UCSD) def. Nicole Ballach (HPU) 3-6, 6-2, 6-3
6. Shweta Kumar (UCSD) def. Heloise Le Normand (HPU) 6-2, 6-4
Hawai'i Pacific 5-1; National ranking #4; Regional ranking #1
UC San Diego 4-5; National ranking #22; Regional ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (1,2,6,3,4,5)
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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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