ATHENS, Ga. -- Texas' 10th-ranked women's tennis team upset third-ranked Kentucky, 4-2, in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships on Friday evening at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the University of Georgia campus. The Longhorns won the doubles point with impressive wins at Nos. 2 and 3, but found themselves down early in singles. UT rallied and put together three consecutive straight-set singles wins, capped off by the gritty play of freshman Courtney Zauft (San Antonio, Texas) who recorded a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kentucky's Lara Maurer at No. 5. The Longhorns improved to 24-5, while the Wildcats ended their season at 26-6.
Texas, the No. 11 seed in the tourney, will face No. 2 seed Florida in the semifinals on Saturday, May 21 at 2 p.m. (Central). This marks the seventh time in the program's history that the Longhorns have reached the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, but the first occasion since 1997. Texas has won the National Championship twice, in 1993 and 1995, and was runner-up in 1992. The Gators (22-2) advanced out of the quarterfinals after defeating No. 7 seed Southern California, 4-2, and will make their 17th appearance in the NCAA semifinals in the last 19 years.
After a little more than a two hour rain delay, the players took the courts for the start of doubles. Claiming the first doubles match of the dual was the duo of junior Kelly Baritot (Allison Park, Pa.) and Zauft who posted an 8-6 mark over Emily Foster and Maurer at No. 3. The matches on courts one and two were close headed down the stretch, but it was the impressive play of sophomore Petra Dizdar (Split, Croatia) and junior Mia Marovic (Split, Croatia) that clinched the doubles point for Texas. The Longhorn tandem upset Kentucky's 22nd-ranked duo of Kim Coventry and Joelle Schwenk at No. 2 in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (7). Texas' No. 1 and 28th-ranked doubles team of juniors Katie Ruckert (Vienna, Va.) and Kendra Strohm (Tucson, Ariz.) were up 8-7 over Kentucky's seventh-ranked tandem of Sarah Foster and Aibika Kalsarieva before play was suspended.
"I thought the doubles point was huge," head coach Jeff Moore said. "Obviously it matters in the end but it matters in terms of momentum as well. I was concerned that we would not reset for the singles or that maybe the team would be too emotional so we tried to calm them down after the doubles."
In singles, the Wildcats took the first two matches at Nos. 6 and 2 as sophomore Ristine Olson (Missoula, Mont.) fell to Petrisko, 6-2, 6-0 and 92nd-ranked Marovic dropped a 7-6 (2), 6-2 decision to 30th-ranked Coventry.
The Longhorns were down 2-1, but they put together three consecutive straight-set wins to clinch the 4-2 victory. Dizdar defeated her second top-15 opponent in as many days, this time dispatching of third-ranked Kalsarieva 6-3, 6-2 at the top of the lineup. Ruckert followed with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Schwenk at No. 4, setting the stage for the dramatic finish on court five where Zauft took the first set over Maurer, 6-3, and was serving at match point in the second set when Maurer hit a wide ball, giving Zauft the 6-4 win.
"I had my chances earlier in the second set to close out the match, but Maurer picked up her game and kept fighting back," Zauft said. "I heard that Petra (Dizdar) and Katie (Ruckert) won their matches back-to-back, and I knew that the win was on my match. I have been in this position before. I kept reminding myself that this was just another point and I was able to close it out."
With the match decided, Strohm's match on court three was suspended.
"The team fought hard today and I was impressed with how Petra (Dizdar), Katie (Ruckert) and Courtney (Zauft) didn't let up," Moore continued. "It was also just as important that Kendra (Strohm) stayed on the court as long as she did because the other two matches we lost way too quickly. It was overall a great effort by the entire team."
#10 Texas 4, #3 Kentucky 2
Singles (Order of finish: 6, 2, 1, 4, 5)
1. Petra Dizdar (UT) def. Aibika Kalsarieva (UK) 6-3, 6-2
2. Kim Coventry (UK) def. Mia Marovic (UT) 7-6 (2), 6-2
3. Sarah Foster (UK) vs. Kendra Strohm (UT) DNF
4. Katie Ruckert (UT) def. Joelle Schwenk (UK) 6-3, 6-2
5. Courtney Zauft (UT) def. Lara Maurer (UK) 6-3, 6-4
6. Danielle Petrisko (UK) def. Ristine Olson (UT) 6-2, 6-0
Doubles (Order of finish: 3, 2)
1. S. Foster/Kalsarieva (UK) vs. Ruckert/Strohm (UT) DNF
2. Dizdar/Marovic (UT) def. Coventry/Schwenk (UK) 9-8 (7)
3. Kelly Baritot/Zauft (UT) def. Emily Foster/Maurer (UK) 8-6