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No. 6 women’s tennis advances through first two rounds of NCAA Tournament – The Cavalier Daily
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No. 6 women’s tennis advances through first two rounds of NCAA Tournament – The Cavalier Daily

No. 6 Virginia women’s tennis hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament this weekend, competing against Long Island University and No. 41 Princeton. Although currently ranked sixth nationally, Virginia is the fifth seed in the tournament. The Cavaliers (24-4, 12-1 ACC) defeated both the Sharks (11-6, 3-1 NEC) and the Tigers (16-7, 6-1 Ivy) to advance smoothly to the Round of 16 for the fourth year in a row. The wins marked the continuation of a 21-match home winning streak. The Cavaliers will now look to extend that record to 22 at home against No. 41 Vanderbilt Saturday.

Saturday – Virginia 4, Long Island University 0

Virginia hosted the first round of the NCAA tournament against Long Island University, the same team they defeated in the first round last year. Much like last year, the Sharks never had a chance against the Cavaliers, who are undefeated at home this year, and they quickly fell into outright losses.

To open the game, the Cavaliers took the court for a double play. Senior Hibah Shaikh and sophomore Annabelle Xu dominated senior Clara Tardivel and freshman Mia Tsoukalas. The match marked the first time this season that the two played together, as Shaikh’s usual partner, graduate student Natasha Subhash, was ill. However, the duo’s novelty did not manifest itself as they defeated Tardivel and Tsoukalas 6-0. The No. 88 duo of senior Sara Ziodato and sophomore Meggie Navarro earned the doubles point for Virginia on court two with a 6-2 victory over senior Saki Oyama and graduate student Kate Jorjoliani.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, the Cavaliers refused to slow down in the singles competition, winning three matches in a quick and clean victory. Junior Melodie Collard finished first, beating Tsouklas on court five with a pair of 6-1 sets. No. 125 junior Elaine Chervinsky followed suit on court four against senior Jasmine Maduel, defeating her 6-1, 6-0. No. 91 Ziodato secured Virginia’s victory on court three, prevailing over graduate student Lucy Garrigues 6-3, 6-1.

The win was the Cavaliers’ 13th home victory this season and their 20th consecutive home victory. The win pitted Virginia against No. 41 Princeton in the second-round Charlottesville Regional. Before the game, the Cavaliers had won the last three meetings against the Tigers and were looking to continue their streak.

Sunday – Virginia 4, Princeton 0

The Cavaliers faced more déjà vu in the second round of the tournament, facing Princeton for the third straight year. Picking up where it left off last year, Virginia steamrolled the Tigers after getting the ball rolling early in the doubles competition before taking each singles win in straight sets.

The No. 8 duo of Collard and Chervinsky finished first in doubles, winning 6-0 over junior Leena Bennetto and sophomore Eva Elbaz. Reunited after the first round, the No. 47 duo of Subhash and Shaikh secured the point for Virginia, quickly defeating senior Maia Sung and freshman Bella Chhiv 6-1.

To open the singles competition, Collard widened the score to 2-0 against Elbaz, beating her 6-3, 6-2 for her 30th win of the season. On court two, No. 67 Xu took on Bennetto, putting the Cavaliers even further ahead as they closed out the match 6-2, 6-1.

Ziodato, who also earned her 30th win, earned the victory for the Cavaliers in a straight-set 6-3, 6-2 victory against freshman Madeleine Jessup. With the win, Virginia secured the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 as host for the second time in three years. The Cavaliers fell to Michigan on the road in the 2023 Round of 16, but will be bolstered by home field advantage this year. They will have to remain as disciplined in the next round as they were over the weekend if they hope to make the NCAA quarterfinals this time around.

“Princeton gave us a great fight today. They are a very strong team that we have seen at this stage of the tournament over the last three years. I was very proud of the way the girls came out, especially in doubles,” said coach Sara O’Leary. “I’m just really proud of the team and the way they came out so focused, disciplined, organized and had great composure throughout.”

Virginia will host No. 31 Vanderbilt on Saturday in the Round of 16. Vanderbilt is unseeded in the tournament, but that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers can rest easy, as the Commodores (14-10, 6-7 SEC) just won No. 12 have defeated Ohio State and will likely be hungry for more. However, if the Cavaliers can play at the level they have played at home the past 21 games, the game should end in a win. The match starts on Saturday at 1:00 PM and will be streamed live by Virginia Athletics.