May 23, 2014

Chao/Yen Knock Off Top Seed, Advance To NCAA Semis

Claremont, Calif. - Senior Sammy Chao (foreground) and sophomore Lea Lynn Yen (background) rallied from a tiebreaker loss in the first set to come back and win a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 decision in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals over top-seeded Lindsay Raulston and Shelby Harris of Mary Washington on Friday afternoon at CMS. 

Raulston and Harris entered the day with a 17-match winning streak over a span of more than two months, since they fell to Chao and Yen on March 6 and Jessica Ly and Ceara Sumida of Redlands on March 7. With the victory, Chao and Yen move on to the NCAA semifinals tomorrow against the doubles team from host CMS (Katie Kuosman and Caroline Ward), who advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Williams. 

Doubles teams from Amherst and Emory will meet in the other semifinal on Saturday, and the two winners will come right back to play the championship match on Saturday afternoon. Exact start times are to be determined. 

The Sagehens broke serve down 6-5 to force the first set into a tiebreaker, fighting off a set point as Yen painted the baseline with a pretty lob over the top of both Mary Washington players at the net (her second such lob of the game). It took six break points after that before the Sagehens were finally able to take advantage and level the set 6-6. 

Pomona-Pitzer appeared to have the momentum going in the first part of the tiebreaker, taking the first three points as Chao and Yen exchanged backhand winners. However, Mary Washington responded with seven points in a row for a 7-3 tiebreaker win. 

The Sagehens regrouped quickly at the changeover and broke Mary Washington twice in a row for a 3-0 lead early in the second set. The Eagles broke back and had a chance to pull back even 3-3, but Yen got a key hold on a service winner after it was 30-30. The teams then exchanged service breaks in the last three games, with the final break from Pomona-Pitzer giving them the 6-3 second set win and a split. 

Yen fought off two break points on her serve in the first game of the third set, and after Mary Washington held, the Sagehens earned eight straight points (four on Chao's serve to hold, and four in a row to break) for a 3-1 lead. With the score 4-2, a Yen volley on game point after the Eagles got to deuce hit the tape and fell over to put Pomona-Pitzer on the brink of the win. 

Mary Washington was still only down one break at 5-2 in the third and won the first two points on its serve to go for a hold, but Pomona-Pitzer won the next four points in a row to finish off the win. Chao ripped a backhand down the line for a key winner at 40-30, and Mary Washington's final shot off of a Yen return was a lob that drifted over the baseline to end the match 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2. 

Chao and Yen did not face Ward and Kuosman during the regular season, as Yen was forced to miss the CMS match in April with a shoulder injury, and Chao played at No. 2 doubles with freshman Maddie Gordon instead. The teams met in the NCAA Regional finals at CMS two weeks ago (May 11), with Ward and Kuosman roaring out to a quick 4-0 start and taking an 8-3 win.