No. 29 Tritons Face Off With No. 23 Azusa Pacific in NCAA West Region #2 Tuesday at 2 p.m.
The 29th-ranked University of California San Diego women's tennis program enters the 2019 NCAA Division II Championship at home this week. The Tritons (12-7) host 23rd-ranked rival Azusa Pacific University (14-8) in a West Region #2 preliminary-round match on Tuesday, May 14. Action gets under way with doubles at 2 p.m. at Northview Tennis Courts on North Campus in La Jolla. Admission is free, but parking permits are required. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, as parking could be a challenge at that hour with classes still in session at UC San Diego. The team that advances out of Tuesday's contest, moves on to the round of 16 at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla., May 22-25. Following preliminary activity, the NCAA committee will reseed all 16 teams.
The Tritons, seeded fourth in the initial, official NCAA West Region poll, rose to third, and moved up once more to second when the final selections were unveiled. Azusa Pacific is the No. 3 seed. UC San Diego is 7-5 at home this year, with three straight wins. APU is 6-3 outside of Azusa.
Of the 48 teams selected to compete in NCAA postseason play, 21 earned automatic bids by winning a conference tournament, while 27 others are at-large qualifiers. UC San Diego and Azusa Pacific are both at-large selections.
The West Region #1 features fourth-seeded Academy of Art University (14-5) making the trek over to Honolulu, Hawai'i, to take on top seed Hawai'i Pacific University (13-5), also Tuesday, at 11:30 a.m. HT (2:30 p.m. PT). That winner moves on to Florida as well.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
This is UC San Diego's 13th invitation to the NCAA Division II Championship under head coach Liz LaPlante, and second in a row. As the West's No. 4 seed a year ago, UC San Diego dropped a 5-1 decision at top-seeded Hawai'i Pacific in the opening round in Honolulu, Hawai'i. LaPlante previously guided the program to 15 NCAA tournaments during its time in Division III.
This is the first time that UC San Diego has made back-to-back NCAA appearances since 2009-10. The Tritons are an even 12-12 all-time in the Division II tourney.
The last three times that UC San Diego has qualified for the NCAA Division II Championship, they traveled to the island of Oahu in Hawai'i. This year, the Tritons will serve as hosts of a West sub-regional for the first time since 2009, when they lost to Hawai'i Pacific 5-3 in La Jolla on May 9.
UC San Diego has been unable to get out of the opening round of the NCAA Championship in each of its last four appearances, falling to HPU each time. The last time the Tritons won an NCAA tourney match was against Cal Poly Pomona at home on May 3, 2008, by the score of 5-0. They then went on to lose at BYU Hawaii, 5-0.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
Azusa Pacific is making just its second NCAA Championship appearance, having lost 5-3 at home to Academy of Art in its debut a year ago on April 28. The Cougars took third at the 2019 Pacific West Conference Championships in Surprise, Ariz. These teams have met twice already in 2019, splitting the pair of meetings with the road side victorious each time. APU first won 4-2 in the Tritons' season opener in La Jolla on Feb. 8. UC San Diego returned the favor in Azusa late in the year on April 6, edging out a dramatic 4-3 triumph, upsetting the then-15th-ranked Cougars. Sophomore No. 1 singles player Petra Ivankovic was No. 25 nationally in the May 1 Oracle/ITA rankings.
SPECIAL SENIOR CLASS
The date with Cal State LA on Saturday, April 13, marked the final home match in the careers of fourth-year Tritons Ashley Chao, Madison Hale and Alexandra Weil. Hale is a co-captain this season. All three have eclipsed the 50-win plateau in career doubles, with Hale and Weil achieving all 61 of theirs together as four-year partners. Chao is 44-37 in singles and 55-27 in doubles. Hale is 18-18 in singles and 61-24 in doubles. Weil is 48-29 in singles and 61-22 in doubles.
CHLOE COMING BACK!
Despite three departing veteran seniors, UC San Diego did receive some good news late in the season, as a fourth four-year Triton, Chloe Wight, announced that she has opted to use her final season of eligibility and return for the 2019-20 campaign. Wight went the first two years of her time at UC San Diego, without taking part in any action, and thus has eligibility left. Wight is 14-10 in singles and 22-17 in doubles over the past two seasons.
DOWN GOES DAVIS!
UC San Diego completed its perfect 4-0 Spring Break, and three-match Northern California trip, with a dramatic 4-3 triumph at future Division I and Big West Conference rival UC Davis on Friday, March 29. The Tritons took the doubles point, but the match was tied at 3-3, with just the No. 4 singles court to go. There, Chloe Wight was down 2-5 in the third set and facing two match points at 30-40, before winning the next two points to make it 3-5, and ultimately pull out a 7-6 (7-0) tiebreak for the 4-3 decision. It was the Tritons' first success over UCD since 2005, following nine straight defeats in the all-time series. They will be in the Big West together in the 2021 dual 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 and Alexandra Weil join them, as well as juniors Valeria Corral (San Diego/Mater Dei Catholic HS) and Chloe Wight. Anu Bhadada (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) and Shweta Kumar are the two rookies.
Chao (8-10) is still at No. 1 in singles, with Weil (No. 2) and Chou (No. 3) switching places. Corral has mostly been at No. 4, with Wight (9-4) at the No. 5 position since her return from injury, and Kumar (10-6) or Bhadada (4-4) 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, and then seven consecutive through April 13. She shares the team high of 13 singles wins with Weil, each at an identical 13-4. Corral (9-2 overall, 9-0 at No. 4) is on a team-best win streak of nine in a row, all at No. 4.
In doubles, Chao and Chou are at No. 1 again with a 10-6 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 12-4 and had won a season-best seven straight from March 8 through April 10. Kumar and Wight are 9-6 at No. 3 with four wins in a row from March 25-29.
UC San Diego, at No. 29 in the latest Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national poll on May 1, was rated No. 4 in the season's first ITA West Region poll, released back on Jan. 16. Tuesday's opponent, No. 23 Azusa Pacific, was at No. 3 in that regional listing. The Tritons have faced 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 7-3 thus far against that group. Individually, Ashley Chao and Becky Chou were as high as No. 44 nationally in doubles on April 3. In regional rankings back on Nov. 14, seniors Alexandra Weil and Chloe Wight were No. 10 and No. 13 in the West, 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 588-296. 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 61 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 61-22. 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 41 of 55 coming with her. Chao's dual-match doubles record is 55-27.
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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Should UC San Diego advance out of Tuesday's meeting with Azusa Pacific, the Tritons move on to the round of 16 at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla., May 22-25. Following preliminary action, the NCAA committee will reseed all 16 teams.
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 37 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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