Women's tennis team celebrates
The joy of a Semi-Final Victory: Chris Rosca is mobbed by teammates with her decisive 3 set win over Georgia Tech – to give VU a 4-2 win. Photo courtesy

Everyone knew it had been too easy getting to the semi-finals of the NCAA women’s tennis tournament for the # 1 seed Commodores. The only question was how would the team handle adversity? Well today at the Wake Forest Tennis Center we learned the answer to that question.

VU upset the Georgia Tech # 2 doubles team and the number # 3 followed suit to give VU the important doubles point. All that Vanderbilt had to do was get 3 singles victories and it would be smooth sailing as it had been up until today.

However, Georgia Tech, the number 4 tournament seed, had other ideas. Tech won the # 4 and #5 singles while Astra Sharma and Fernando Contreras won singles for Vanderbilt at # 1 and # 2. This made the score 3-2 VU, but in the # 3 match Chris Rosca lost the first set and Summer Dvorak was locked in a tight match at # 6. Lose those last 2 matches and Vanderbilt would be headed to Nashville instead of the finals in Winston-Salem tomorrow.

This is exactly when the answer to the tournament long question was forthcoming. Could Vanderbilt withstand a tight, pressure-packed situation? Then answer, in a word, “yes!”

Rosca showed mental toughness after losing the first set 6-2 by winning the second set with a tie-break. Had that gone the other way, who knows what might have happened? Rosca put the pedal to the metal in the third set and jumped out to a commanding 5-1 lead, then lost her serve and another game, but broke to win the deciding set 6-3.

Meanwhile, on court 6 Dvorak lost the second set, but she too raced to a 5-1 third set lead that was stopped at 5-2 because of the match conclusion. Both Rosca and Dvorak were put to the test and had their backs against the wall. Both came through with confidence earning third sets.

In the post-game interview Coach Macdonald complemented Georgia Tech on their hard-fought play. He commented that the level of play in this “high stakes” environment was amazing for both teams. His team, he said, is made up of “great students and great competitors.”

Tomorrow for all the marbles, Vanderbilt faces a somewhat familiar opponent in Stanford. Stanford eliminated Vanderbilt from the NCAA tournament in 2001 with a 4-0 score. The fact that Vanderbilt beat Stanford earlier this year in Nashville is irrelevant according to Macdonald because Stanford has greatly improved since then.

Sharma, Rosca and Contreras said, “We believe in each other and we know how hard we have worked.” They relish the opportunity to show that the hard work can pay off with a national title tomorrow.

The match tomorrow is going to be another tight one. Winning the doubles point would be nice, but higher seeded Duke won it today and still lost to Stanford. It is going to come down again to enjoying this final play of this special team: they have accomplished much already, but as Coach Macdonald said to the team coming off the court: “one more.” It is that simple and that hard.

AUTHOR NOTE: Jerry Reves is a Vanderbilt graduate and played tennis at Vanderbilt.

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