The NCAA National Championship is one of the biggest tournaments in collegiate tennis and is played over three weekends. The 64 team draw consists of the 31 conference winners followed by the remaining top ranked schools, with the top 16 seeded teams being host schools of a 4-team elimination bracket at their campus for the first two rounds. The R64 and R32 were played last weekend at host sites all over the country and included many of our Aussies in both the Men’s and Women’s draws.
Players from Queensland on the Men’s side displayed a strong performance last weekend which included Casey Hoole (South Carolina), Pat Harper (Tennessee) and Eric Padgham (Arizona) all helping their respective teams progress to the R16, also known as the NCAA Super Regionals.
South Carolina, the 9th seed, eased their way past South Carolina State 4-0 and followed suit the next day with a 4-1 win over Florida State. Casey Hoole won both singles matches over the weekend with his toughest match coming down to a three set win at #5 singles against Florida State’s Andreja Petrovic 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 which clinched the Gamecocks third point of the day.
“To be able to get through my match, it was probably one of my better wins for the season”, said Hoole. “That guy was a pretty strong player and I was happy with my performance there.”
The Gamecocks will play 8th seed Tennessee who they lost to back in April, 6-1. The R16 match will be played at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday at 2:00 PM Central Daylight Time.
“We lost to them earlier in the season”, said Hoole. “It’s always a dog fight between us two, I think there’s not a lot of love lost between our two teams so we’re looking forward getting in their and trying to cause a lot of issues for them and hopefully get over the line and make our way to Orlando.”
The Gamecocks next opponent, Tennessee, also breezed their way through the first two rounds, losing only one point to Belmont University followed by a 4-0 win over Wake Forest who were the 2018 National Champions. Tennessee has a long history of Australians playing for the Volunteers, and Brisbane’s Pat Harper is leaving a legacy in Knoxville where he is in his final year as a senior.
Playing #1 doubles partnering Great Britain’s Johannus Monday, the duo were dominant across both of their doubles matches to help Tennessee clinch the doubles point against both schools. Harper and Monday are currently ranked #4 in the NCAA D1 national rankings and will also be playing in the NCAA Doubles Championship which is after the current team tournament finishes at the end of next week.
Eric Padgham, a freshman at the University of Arizona has worked his way into the doubles line-up playing #3 doubles with Gustaf Strom from Sweden. The Wildcats were the host school for the first time in their programs history going in as the #14 seed with a 23-6 record for the season before the tournament. Arizona have not dropped a point, earning 4-0 wins over Boise and Oklahoma State on Friday and Saturday respectively.
“It feels great”, said Padgham. “It was the first time hosting the first two rounds of NCAA’s in our program’s history which is huge because we know how tough it is for other schools to come here and play with the altitude.”
The men’s team will travel up north to Columbus, Ohio where they will play 3rd seed Ohio State on Saturday at 11:00 AM Central Daylight Time.
“They’re obviously a very good team. We trust each other as a team and we obviously believe we can do it, full trust in our coaching staff and each other as a team.”
On the women’s side, Tennessee moved swiftly through the first two rounds where they defeated Southeast Missouri State and Wake Forest 4-0 and 4-1 respectively. Tennessee came into the tournament as the #15 seed and like the men’s side, were named a host school as they just moved inside the top 16 towards the end of the season. Sydney’s Catherine Aulia made a huge impact helping the Volunteers secure the doubles point, partnering Junior, Lauren Anzalotta from Puerto Rico at #2 doubles.
“The doubles point definitely helps a lot”, said Aulia. “It gives you a bit of security even though we are very confident in our singles line-up, just that extra weight off your shoulders in case the other team comes in swinging”.
The Volunteers left for College Station, Texas on Wednesday morning to prepare for their R16 match against Texas A&M which will be played on Friday at 2:00 PM Central Daylight Time. The winner of that match will move into the quarter-finals which will be played at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida which will also host the Men and Women’s Division II and Division III Championships.
“We know what we’re capable of as a team, and we were very close last time, we had a lot of close matches so we’re just going to stick to what we’ve been doing and hopefully our practice and what we’ve been working towards is going to show on Friday”.