Lions Become First Saint Leo Team to Advance to National Semifinal Round in School History
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – Continuing its historic post-season run, the sixth-ranked Saint Leo women's tennis team took down the 12th-ranked California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans by a final score of 5-2 on Thursday morning at Sanlando Park in the NCAA DII Women's Tennis National Quarterfinals. Saint Leo advances its record to 22-5 on the season, while Cal U concludes its 2014 campaign with a mark of 15-3.
The Lions become the first team to advance to a national semifinal round in school history.
The matchup marked the first time the two programs met in competition in program history. With the win, the Lions snap a 13-match win streak of a team that has advanced to the NCAA DII Quarterfinal Round in seven of the last eight seasons, including six straight, and earn their 16th win over a nationally-ranked NCAA opponent this season.
Compared to battle the Lions endured the previous day against No. 3 BYU-Hawaii in the Round of 16, Thursday's match was a breeze as it concluded in just under three hours with no matches going into a third set. Saint Leo won two of the three doubles matches, beginning with the tandem of Laura Kemkes and Anastasia Wagner with an 8-4 win at No. 2 doubles over Ramona Czakon and Mariela Sarinana.
Maria Benkirane and Adrianna Daszkiewicz pulled Saint Leo ahead, 2-0, defeating Jesse Burrell and Kiefer Shaw, 8-5 at the No. 3 position. The Vulcans answered back with a win of their own at No. 1, as the No. 12 duo of Lucie Sipkova and Lucie Rey earned an 8-5 win over Pauline Helgesson and Paula Montoya.
Singles play got underway with a few intermittent sprinkles to slow things down, but the Lions continued to build upon their doubles success. Montoya pulled the Lions ahead, 3-1, earning a 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 5 singles over Veronika Mikulis, but No. 20 Sipkova closed the gap back to one with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Coralie Pesenti in the top flight.
Kemkes answered back less than a minute later, clinching a 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 2 singles over 34th-ranked Czakon, giving the Lions a 4-2 lead.
Benkirane closed up shop for the day shortly after, taking down Shaw in the fourth slot, 6-1, 6-2 to clinch the Lions' first-ever NCAA DII Women's Tennis National Quarterfinal victory.
Saint Leo returns to action on Friday when they take on No. 2 Armstrong Atlantic State University at Sanlando Park. The two-time defending national champions earned their 11th-straight berth into the national semifinals earlier Thursday morning with a 5-0 win over NYIT. The last time out between the two teams was on February 22, 2014, where Armstrong handed the Lions a 9-0 loss at the Saint Leo Tennis Center.
The Saint Leo/Armstrong match was the Lions' fifth of the season, and since then the Green and Gold has posted a record of 20-2, including wins over 15 nationally ranked NCAA teams in that run. The Lions have won eight of their last nine matches, with their only loss in that run coming at the hands of No. 1 Barry in the SSC Championship on April 26.
Saint Leo has also bounced two of the top five teams out of the Tournament, beginning with a 5-3 win over No. 4 Lynn in the South Region II Finals on May 6, and Wednesday's 5-4 victory over No. 3 BYU-Hawaii on May 14. Next on the docket, is the No. 2-ranked Pirates.
Friday's match is currently slated for 9 a.m. at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs. In case of weather delays, check SaintLeoLions.com for the latest on updated schedules and match times.
For the latest news, updates, and information on the Saint Leo women's tennis team in their historic post-season journey, be sure to visit SaintLeoLions.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.