NCAA tennis: Women's bracket breakdown
Can Florida win its third straight title? Will SEC rival Georgia rise up? And who knew Nebraska was so good? Here’s our look at the 16-team women’s bracket:
This is the Crimson Tide’s first appearance in the round of 16 and its first 20-win season under coach Jenny Mainz. Senior Alexa Guarachi became Alabama’s winningest player in singles (105) and doubles (109) this season. And congrats to sophomore Emily Zabor, the Elite 89 award winner (brains and brawn).
The Bears have a familiar face on the sidelines: former NCAA doubles champion (1998, ‘99) Amanda Augustus is in her sixth year as coach at her alma mater. Cal, which finished second in the Pac-12, has won eight in a row to reach the round of 16 for the 13th time.
The Tigers are making their eighth appearance in the round of 16 in the last 10 seasons, advancing as far as the semifinals in 2004 and ‘05. Count on that trend to continue as the lineup features three freshmen and three sophomores — with no juniors or seniors on the roster.
Despite injuries taking a toll, the Blue Devils are in the round of 16 for the sixth consecutive year — and 21st time in 25 years. Today’s opponent is no stranger. Last season, Florida ended Duke’s season in the semifinals, 4-3. Earlier this season, Duke swept Florida for the first time in program history.
The Gators are the two-time defending NCAA champions and have won six titles overall. Senior Lauren Embree is the top-ranked player in the country and was named the MVP of the 2011 and ‘12 NCAA Championships. She is the first player voted SEC Player of the Year three times.
Making their 27th consecutive appearance in the tournament — Stanford, UCLA and Cal have the longest streaks at 32 — the SEC regular season champion Bulldogs are 20-time quarterfinalists, 10-time finalists (most recently in 2009) and two-time champions (1994, ‘00).
The Hurricanes have advanced to the round of 16. Better yet, they’ve advanced to the Elite Eight the last four seasons. Only Duke can claim that feat. Said junior Melissa Bolivar: “It’s what we look forward to. We want to get to the semis and finals. We’re thinking about winning the title.”
Making its fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, Michigan is coming off a fourth straight Big Ten title thanks to all-conference performers Emina Bektas, Ronit Yurovsky, Brooke Bolender and Mimi Nguyen. Yurovsky was Freshman of the Year and Ronni Bernstein was Coach of the Year.
The most successful team in school history is making its first Sweet 16 appearance (the Cornhuskers are ranked 16th after reaching No. 6, an all-time high). Mary Weatherholt, with 25 singles wins this season, passed Sandra Noetzel (1996-00) to become the program’s all-time leader (118).
North Carolina is in the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth consecutive year. The Tar Heels, led by ITA Region honorees Gina Suarez-Malaguti (top senior) and Whitney Kay (top freshman), won the ITA National Indoor Championship in February, the program’s first team national tennis title.
The Wildcats are making their 10th consecutive appearance in the round of 16 — and 13th in the last 14 years. Just as impressive, they’ve won 15 straight Big Ten titles. It’s not as if they’re playing patsies: Of Northwestern’s 28 opponents this season, 22 have been ranked in the top 40.
The Trojans are contending for their eighth national title — something they narrowly missed a year ago (second place). The No. 5 seed dominated the Pac-12 this season behind Player of the Year Sabrina Santamaria, Coach of the Year Richard Gallien and Doubles Team of the Year (Kaitlyn Christian, Santamaria).
It wouldn’t be an NCAA tournament without the 12th-ranked Cardinal, which has made the cut every year and produced 16 titles with a 125-16 record. Only one four-year class (1993-96) did not win at least one championship during its time on The Farm.
In the Sweet 16 for the second time in school history, the Aggies are a confident bunch (15-3 against the NCAA field, including a 4-3 win against two-time reigning champs that helped them to a share of the SEC regular season title). Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar is the first Aggie to be a two-time All-American.
Virginia is in the round of 16 for the third straight year — and one of five schools to send its men’s and women’s team this far three years running (Cal, Duke, Georgia, UCLA). ACC Freshman of the Year Julia Elbaba is the first Cavalier to be seeded in NCAA Singles Championships draw in school history.
Coach Stella Sampras Webster, sister of 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras, nearly won a title a year ago, losing to Florida in the finals. The seventh seed, the Bruins return every player but one from last year including Hinsdale native Courtney Dolehide, who plays No. 2 doubles and No. 6 singles.