NCAA Women's Tennis Tournament : Stanford Gets a Scare Before Defeating Georgia

Special to The Times

A year ago, Georgia was the story of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. women's tennis tournament, riding a series of upsets into the championship match, which Stanford won, 5-1.

Georgia and Stanford met again Friday at UCLA in the quarterfinals of this year's tournament, and the Cardinal won again. Only it wasn't as easy.

"Did we really win that match?" Stanford Coach Frank Brennan said, half-jokingly, after the Cardinal's 5-3 victory over No. 7-seeded Georgia.

The Cardinal led, 4-0, before the Bulldogs pulled out three-set matches in No. 2 and No. 4 singles. In No. 2, Stanford's Teri Whitlinger squandered four match points, continuing her lackluster tournament play with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 loss to Stacey Schefflin.

Whitlinger is ranked No. 14 to Schefflin's No. 70.

Then, in No. 4, Lisa Apanay handed Stanford senior Kay Tittle her first loss in NCAA team competition, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

"Kay and Teri rarely lose," Brennan said. "I'm not really worried about them. They're resilient. Kay was a little tight. If they do lose, it's usually because they're tight."

That tightness seemed to carry over into the doubles competition. Teri Whitlinger and Cindy Buchsbaum lost, 6-4, 6-4, to Georgia's Jane Cohodes and Lianna Bebeau in No. 2 doubles, and that cut Stanford's lead to 4-3.

Meanwhile, Stanford's No. 1 team of Sandra Birch and Cari Hagey, after splitting sets, came back and defeated Stacey Shefflin and Lisa Apanay, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0, to clinch the match.

"Life is not always Camelot," said Brennan, whose No. 1 player, Tami Whitlinger, has missed both Cardinal matches with a groin pull and is expected not to play in today's semifinals.

"You don't win after singles every time and I don't think we'll be able to go through the tournament without having to go into the doubles."

The only other team that didn't have to go into doubles was No. 1 Florida, a 6-0 winner over No. 10 Arizona State in another quarterfinal match. The Gators (28-1) took all their matches in straight sets.

Third-seeded USC was in worse shape than Stanford after singles. The Trojans were tied, 3-3, with No. 6 Kentucky before winning two of the three doubles matches to move into today's semifinals against Stanford at 2 p.m.

What hurt USC was when No. 3-ranked Trisha Laux lost to Kentucky's Sonia Hahn, 1-6, 7-6, 7-6, in a 3-hour 25-minute match. Laux squandered two match points in the second set. So, instead of being down 4-2, Kentucky pulled even with Hann's win, heading into doubles.

Kentucky got its other victories in No. 2 singles as Tamaka Takagi defeated Stephanie London, 6-1, 6-4, and in NO. 5 as Caroline Knudten beat Lupita Novelo, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In No. 1 doubles, the long match against Laux eventually took a toll on the normally steady Hahn. She started missing routine shots, and Novelo and Mary Norwood defeated the No. 1-ranked Hahn and Takagi, 6-3, 6-1, to clinch the victory.

UCLA, the No. 4-seeded team, beat No. 5 California for the fourth straight time this season.

As always, the Bears made it difficult for the Bruins, pushing the match to doubles before losing, 5-2.

For UCLA, Allyson Cooper (No. 1), Jessica Emmons (No. 2), Kirsten Dreyer (No. 3) and Stella Sampras (No. 4) won their singles match. Sampras was the only one to win in straight sets. Emmons and Joni Urban clinched it with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Tiffany Silveria and Alissa Finerman in No. 2 doubles.

"Our seniors have never been to the final four," said UCLA Coach Bill Zaima, whose team meets Florida at 11 a.m. today in the first semifinal. "We said it was the freshmen's job to help the seniors get into the final four. And it was the seniors' job to get the freshman into the final four."

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