In 2018 the FSU women’s tennis team advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time in program history. Three years later, they are back. The seventh-seeded Seminoles defeated 10th-seeded Texas A&M 4-2 in the Round of 16 Sunday afternoon to move into the final eight teams still in the hunt for the 2021 National Championship.
“It was intense, we knew it was going to be an absolute battle and I think when you’ve got 7 vs. 10 and anybody in this tournament every match is going to be a battle,” said FSU Head Coach Jen Hyde. “I’m just really proud of the girls we hung in there when we could’ve very easily checked out of it a little bit mentally. Did a fantastic job in doubles, we had some deficits in doubles, and did a good job at digging out of that. It was a pretty rowdy Texas A&M bunch and their men’s team did a good job cheering for their team but we were composed, we stuck with it and we knew it was going to be a long haul and that’s exactly what it ended up being.”
“I think losing in the first round of the ACC Tournament, I think we had something to prove and something more to accomplish,” said senior Nandini Das. “I never would like to go out without having wins like this. This is just how I want to finish my career here and I am very excited to be in the final eight again.”
FSU struck first taking the doubles point. It is the 10th time in the last 11 matches that the Seminoles have gone in front by winning doubles. Petra Hule and Giulia Pairone moved through their match quickly, securing the first win on line three with a 6-2 victory. The other two matches were much more closely contested. The Seminoles’ top two pairs, Andrea Garcia and Nandini Das and Emmanuelle Salas and Giulia Pairone, both were tied at 5-5 in their matches. Both won the next game to move to 6-5 in front and then FSU closed it out on court one as Salas and Allen secured the point for the Seminoles with a 7-5 win, upsetting the nation’s No. 20 doubles pair.
Texas A&M advanced to the Round of 16 last week after dropping the doubles point and winning 4-1 and was looking for a repeat performance versus the Seminoles. The Aggies did draw first blood in singles, evening the match at 1-1. Allen quickly moved FSU back into the lead as she improved her win streak to eight matches to make it a 2-1 FSU edge but Texas A&M once again evened it up with a win on court one.
The match came down to a best 2-of-3 in three, third set matches on courts 3, 4 and 6. Das took the first of the final three matches to put the Seminoles on the brink of the quarterfinals. The senior won 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 to move to 2-0 in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and put FSU up 3-2. Hule then finished the win off as she stretched her win streak to nine matches with a 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-1 clinching victory.
“I think it’s a difference-maker,” said Das of her critical win. “If you are a fifth-year, all eyes are on you. I’ve been in that position many times before. Sometimes I have won. I have lost the clincher before…There’s nothing more to lose. Every match you play can be the last. I would never want to do anything but give it my all in the last match I play… I win that match it gives (Petra) a lot of confidence to take that third set.”
“I think it’s a big separator,” said Hyde of her team’s maturity. “That maturity piece as the season has weathered on I think has been a great value. We have been so battle-tested throughout the entire semester that stepping into this setting and obviously the NCAA stage it’s a little different, a little more intense but we are battle-tested nonetheless.”
FSU will face No. 2 Texas Wednesday with a trip to the semifinals at stake. The time of the match and broadcast info is TBA.
“No thoughts on that just yet, but it’s going to be a little bit of the same song and dance,” said Hyde upon learning they will face Texas. “We are going to have to battle, battle, battle, and have to give our best effort that day. I’m grateful we have a couple days to recover. Physically it was tough today, it was really hot out there and I think that will take its toll on every team out here in the heat but we are excited about the opportunity to keep it dancing in this tournament and we got the first check in the box out of the way and we are going to enjoy this one for sure.
“It’s not easy to get to eight, it’s not easy to get to 16 and even 32 or 64, especially in a year that has been such a strange COVID year they have done an unbelievable job at not having any bumps in the road outside of the things that are out of our control and we are looking forward to continue doing so.”
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