WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In a nearly four hour battle, Georgia Tech women’s tennis secured a spot in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals on Thursday night rallying to defeat Pepperdine, 4-3, in the round of 16 at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex. The Waves secured the doubles point, but the Jackets battled back to win four singles matches as freshman Victoria Flores clinched the match in a three set showdown from court six. This marks the first time Tech advanced to the quarterfinals since 2008.
DOUBLES ACTION: Despite the Jackets fighting off a pair of match points at No. 2, Pepperdine clinched the early 1-0 lead, winning from the top two positions. No. 13 Luisa Stefani and Mayar Sherif Ahmed finished first for the Waves, collecting a 6-3 win over Tech’s No. 1 Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones.
Battling on court two, the Jacket duo of No. 48 Ida Jarlskog and Victoria Flores found themselves trailing No. 76 Dzina Milovanovic/Evgeniya Levashova, 5-3. The Jackets fought off match point to hold serve, setting up a 5-4 tally and then broke the Waves to force a 5-5 score. Tech held off a match point at 6-5, but Pepperdine was able to hold for the next two points to win 7-5 and clinch the early 1-0 lead.
Tech’s Johnnise Renaud and Nami Otsuka battled Ashley Lahey and Adrijana Lekaj at the No. 3 position and stood tied at 5-5 before breaking to take a 6-5 lead. The match was suspended when Pepperdine clinched the point.
SINGLES: Tech needed four singles matches to secure the win after dropping the doubles point for just the seventh time this season. Tech’s Otsuka knotted the match at 1-all from the five seed as the Jacket downed No. 91 Laura Gulbe in straight 6-1 sets. But Pepperdine quickly retook the lead as No. 22 Sherif picked up a 6-4, 6-4 win over Renaud from the No. 3 position.
After dropping the first set 6-4 to No. 27 Stefani, Tech’s No. 14 Hourigan fought back after trailing 5-2 in the second set to force a deciding third set, rattling off the next five points to take the second, 7-5. Hourigan carried the momentum into the final set, blazing to a 6-1 victory to even the match at 2-apiece.
Tech captured its first lead of the night as Jarlskog pocketed a three-set win from the four position over No. 54 Levashova. Jarlskog cruised to a 6-2 first set win, but Levashova came back to take the second set, 6-2. Tied at 4-all in the final set, Levashova took a 5-4 edge and held match point at deuce, but Jarlskog fought off the point to tie the set at 5-5. The freshman Yellow Jacket claimed the next two points to hand Tech a 3-2 match lead.
The lead was short-lived as Pepperdine tied the match for the final time at 3-3 when Lahey defeated Jones from the No. 2 position, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (4), 6-3. All eyes turned to court six for the deciding match where Tech’s Flores was battling Pepperdine’s Milovanovic.
Flores claimed the first set in a tiebreak, 7-4, but dropped the second set, 6-3. The foes stood tied at 3-3 in the final set before Flores broke Milovanovic to take a 4-3 edge. In a dramatic finish, Flores persevered through cramping late in the match to hold serve and go up 5-4. The freshman broke Milovanovic to clinch the match with a 6-4 third set win and send the Jackets into the quarterfinals.
QUOTABLE: “First of all, Pepperdine has a great team and when they beat us at ITA National Indoors, it was a really tough match. Obviously they have five ranked players in singles in their lineup, so you know it’s going to be really tough. The good thing for us, we’ve played teams like that this season, so we are prepared to play and battle, but they are really good and well coached.
“It just came down to tough matches at the finish line. It was a great match. We’re really happy that we were able to play such a good team and be able to win. But the thing for us that was key, was that our schedule helped us a lot. When you play those caliber teams and they are really good, it gets you ready. We will get some rest and get ready to play another tough match on Saturday.” — head coach Rodney Harmon
UP NEXT: No. 4 Georgia Tech will face No. 14 UCLA on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
No. 4 GEORGIA TECH vs No. 12 PEPPERDINE RESULTS
Match Score: Georgia Tech 4, Pepperdine 3
1. No. 13 Luisa Stefani/Mayar Sherif Ahmed (PEPP) def. No. 1 Paige Hourigan/Kenya Jones (GT) 6-3
2. No. 76 Dzina Milovanovic/Evgeniya Levashova (PEPP) def. No. 48 Ida Jarlskog/Victoria Flores (GT) 7-5
3. Johnnise Renaud/Nami Otsuka (GT) vs. Ashley Lahey/Adrijana Lekaj (PEPP) 6-5, DNF
Order of finish: 1, 2
1. 1. No. 14 Paige Hourigan (GT) def. No. 27 Luisa Stefani (PEPP) 4-6, 7-5, 6-1
2. No. 17 Ashley Lahey (PEPP) def. No. 60 Kenya Jones (GT) 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
3. No. 22 Mayar Sherif Ahmed (PEPP) def. Johnnise Renaud (GT) 6-4, 6-4
4. No. 125 Ida Jarlskog (GT) def. No. 54 Evgeniya Levashova (PEPP) 6-2, 2-6, 7-5
5. Nami Otsuka (GT) def. No. 91 Laura Gulbe (PEPP) 6-1, 6-1
6. Victoria Flores (GT) def. Dzina Milovanovic (PEPP) 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3
Order of finish: 5, 3, 1, 4, 2, 6
Records: Georgia Tech (24-5); Pepperdine (24-3)