Rally Leads Women's Tennis to Program's First NCAA Tournament Match Victory
Princeton had no victories in any of its previous four NCAA appearances, while Arizona State was making its 27th straight trip to the NCAA tournament and has been as far as the quarterfinals in 2001.
Princeton's second-year head coach, Laura Granville, was on the court that day against Arizona State in 2001 as a sophomore for Stanford, and her team won that day, too.
"I have so much respect for (ASU coach) Sheila (McInerney)," Granville said. "I know she's a great coach and I remember playing against her teams. It was surreal coaching against her, but it was a really great experience."
Princeton hadn't defeated an opponent ranked as high as Arizona State's No. 25 in four years, since knocking off No. 20 Vanderbilt in Jadwin Gym back in February 2010, before any of the current Tigers were on the roster.
Freshman Alanna Wolff, the only ITA-ranked singles player among the current Tigers, said she and her teammates were aware of their chance to make program history, but it didn't weigh on them.
"We talked about it, but we tried not to get hung up on it," Wolff said. "We just tried to have fun and play for each other since that has been working for us over these past 11 matches."
None of that history mattered Friday night in Alabama. All that Princeton needed was the same determination that led the team to an undefeated run through the Ivy League season after a non-conference slate that saw the Tigers go winless against four ITA-ranked opponents.
On the way through that unbeaten Ivy season, Princeton knocked off three ITA-ranked foes, and Friday night, they made it a fourth with a 4-3 win over the Sun Devils.
"I give all the credit to the girls," Granville said. "They've really come together in the last few months and they've risen to another level. They've believed in each other and they've realized what can happen when they come together as a team."
The win required a short memory and left no room to get discouraged after early setbacks. Princeton fought for more than an hour and a half for a doubles point it didn't get, with Emily Hahn and Amanda Muliawan winning on court two before ASU held off rallies on courts three and one to take the 1-0 lead in the match.
Muliawan, who missed Princeton's last league weekend April 19-20, brought Princeton back to even with her win on court three, but ASU won on courts four and five to put Princeton on the brink of elimination. The Tigers led on courts one, two and six and needed all three to take the match.
The situation asked, and Princeton gave just that. First, Ivy League Player of the Year Lindsay Graff finished off a straight-set win over ASU's Stephanie Vlad, the 69th-ranked player in the country. Then, Katie Goepel chipped in a three-set win, rallying against Joanna Smith after losing the first set.
That left it up to Wolff. She learned last week that this wouldn't be her last match of the spring as she gained a berth in the NCAA singles tournament. Wolff won't be able to take her team with her to that, but was able to bring the rest of the Tigers along for at least one more day.
"It was honestly so nerve-wracking," Wolff said of having the match on her shoulders. "I tried not to look over at the team and just stay focused on the match."
Joining Goepel among Tigers who had to shrug off first-set losses in order to take the match, Wolff delivered a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over the No. 37-ranked player in the country, Desirae Krawczyk, who also has a bid to the NCAA singles tournament later this month.
"This definitely gave me a really big confidence boost," Wolff said of defeating Krawczyk. "I had some good wins in the fall, but it was great for me to know I could come back and get the win and play with the kind of players that are going to be in the singles tournament."
Krawczyk and Wolff can renew acquaintances there, but until then, the Tigers will have the NCAA second round to play tomorrow. Alabama, the regional host and No. 2-ranked team both in the draw and in the country, is Princeton's next opponent.
Her team already having faced Stanford when the Cardinal were ranked No. 1 and Miami when the Hurricanes were ranked No. 13, Granville said the Tigers wouldn't be intimidated should Princeton get No. 2 Alabama Saturday.
"I think it's a really good thing that the girls have played against Stanford," Granville said. "That's a top-of-the-country team and our team has played against girls of their level, so they do know what to expect. We'll go after them tomorrow."
|4||(47) Princeton (19-5) vs. (25) Arizona State (18-8)
May 9, 2014 • Tuscaloosa, Ala.
|1||(67) Graff/Wolff (P)||Krawczyk/Sahagun (A)||8-6|
|2||Emily Hahn/Muliawan (P)||Jump/Smith (A)||8-5|
|3||Joan Cannon/Tang (P)||Alexandra Osborne/Panoho (A)||8-7(3)|
|1||Lindsay Graff (P)||(69) Stephanie Vlad (A)||7-5, 6-4|
|2||(94) Alanna Wolff (P)||(37) Desirae Krawczyk (A)||5-7, 6-4, 6-4|
|3||Amanda Muliawan (P)||Kassidy Jump (A)||7-5, 6-4|
|4||Sivan Krems (P)||Leighann Sahagun (A)||7-6, 7-5|
|5||Dorothy Tang (P)||Ebony Panoho (A)||6-1, 5-7, 7-5|
|6||Katie Goepel (P)||Joanna Smith (A)||1-6, 7-6, 6-2|
|Match notes: This is Princeton's fifth NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2010 ... this was the first meeting between Princeton and Arizona State ... Princeton was a game away from taking the doubles point with Dorothy Tang and Joan Cannon rallying from being down 5-2 at third doubles to lead at 6-5 and 7-6 before ASU forced a tiebreak and won on that court to tie the doubles matches; ASU held off a rally by Lindsay Graff and Alanna Wolff on court one to win the point ... Princeton has its longest winning streak since 2000, now at 11 matches, surpassing a 10-match winning streak that ended in the program's next-most recent NCAA appearance in 2010 ... the last two times Princeton coach Laura Granville and Arizona State coach Sheila McInerney have met in an NCAA tournament match, Granville has won; as a player, Granville and Stanford knocked off McInerney's team in the 2001 NCAA quarterfinals, the last time ASU advanced to the final eight ... this was the 10th tournament, and the first since 2012, that an Ivy League team has won an NCAA tournament match, all coming since 1996.|
|Next match: vs. (2) Alabama, Sat., May 10, 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT
|Order of finish: Singles: 3,4,5,1,6,2; Doubles: 2,3,1|