As women’s NCAA tournament action continues today, here’s a breakdown of the top four seeds, which includes three teams from the SEC.
The women’s tennis team for Florida found themselves at the top of the hill as NCAA Tournament action started and they are still there as they head to Illinois for the Sweet Sixteen. They are the 2-time defending national champions and they are looking to make it a three-peat. They have already downed Marist (4-0) and Georgia Tech (4-0) and are looking at 16th-seeded Duke as their next opponent.
In program history, the Gators have a 34-5 record against the Blue Devils and are 6-0 against them in postseason action. The last meeting between the two teams was in the semifinals last year with Florida pulling out it, 4-3, in a thriller.
This Gators follows Senior Lauren Embree’s lead, who has taken them to new heights during her time at the university. She is ranked as the best singles player in the country and the only player in SEC history to win the league’s player of the year award three times straight. Winning a third NCAA title would put her in a category of her own.
The No. 2-ranked Tar Heals come into the tournament having won nine of their last 10 matches, including their first and second round matches in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels defeated South Carolina State (4-0) and then took down Tennessee (4-1) in the next round. This marks the fourth trip to the Sweet 16 for the Lady Tar Heels, which is a record for them. It also marks the ninth time in program history that UNC has reached the Sweet 16. UNC is 28-14 in NCAA postseason action all-time and went 27-3 this season.
The Tar Heels’ Gina Suarez-Malaguti was named the ACC Player of the Year and earned All-America honors on her way to a 7-seed in the NCAA Singles Tournament. Whitney Kay also earned ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) Rookie of the Year honors for the Carolina Region. She had a singles record of 31-11 that includes a dual match record of 19-3 and 30 doubles match wins.
UNC has never advanced past the Elite Eight, but have their best chance to surpass that with their next match against 15-seed Nebraska in the evening game. If they win that game, they go on to face the winner of the UCLA-Michigan matchup.
The third-ranked Aggies take on Virginia in the round of 16. The Aggies hosted the first and second rounds of the tournament and defeated Southern (4-0) and then 29th-ranked TCU (4-1) to get to this point.
The Aggies played the Cavaliers on Feb. 10 and Mar. 13 this past year and won both matches. Their recent matches should make for a competitive one as both teams are familiar with each other and neither has gotten past the round of 16 before.
A&M should get help from their experience in the SEC and the fact they tied for the best conference record (12-1) with Georgia should give them some confidence as well.
The Aggies finished the regular season at 23-3 and this is their 14-consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The third overall seed is a program record. Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar became the first two-time All-American in A&M history and the first one coached by second-year coach Howard Joffe .
The Aggies showed off their potential with a huge win over Florida earlier in the year that snapped a 45 game SEC win streak for the Gators. They will have to bring that same confidence into this match-up if they want to keep making history and advance to the Elite Eight.
The Georgia Bulldogs are no strangers to the postseason in women’s tennis. They have been to the tournament 27-straight times, which is the fifth-longest active streak in the NCAA (tying them with Florida) behind Texas (31), California, UCLA, and Stanford (all at 32). This is also the 25th time the Bulldogs have reached the round of 16. Georgia has reached the National Semifinals 10 times in its history and is 66-24 overall in the postseason.
The ‘Dawgs defeated Winthrop in the first round (4-0) and Arizona State in the second round (4-0). Those wins moved the Bulldogs to 24-0 all-time when they host the first two rounds and they hope to parlay that success into their meeting with Clemson in the first round match in the NCAA tournament.
Georgia is 25-19 all-time against Clemson with one of those wins coming this year by the score of 5-2. However, in NCAA Tournament action, Clemson holds a 2-1 advantage, which should help them in this match. This could be the year the ‘Dawgs even it up as they boast three ranked singles players and four ranked doubles pairs for the year.
Don’t be surprised if it is the freshmen that step up for this Georgia squad as they have accounted for 35% of the team’s singles wins since January, going 58-21 over that span. Silvia Garcia, a freshman, also has the best singles (.884) and doubles (.923) winning percentages on the team.