CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Freshman Jacinta Chen had no idea she was going to be in the lineup before No. 2 Pomona-Pitzer’s Saturday semifinal match against No. 3 Chicago. She took the opportunity to clinch the match for the Sagehens and carried her team into its third-straight ITA Division III National Women’s Team Indoor Championship final.
“I had no idea coming into today that I would be playing singles or doubles,” Chen said. “It’s been a great experience. I’m a first-year this year and this is my first indoor nationals. I’m so proud of our team to be able to beat Chicago.”
Chen started her day at number three doubles alongside Rebecca Salaway. The pair faced off against Chicago’s Estefania Navarro and Alyssa Rudin. The Sagehens had gained the advantage at number one doubles as Mary Ann Zhao and Emily Chen came out victorious in their match 8-3. Salaway and Chen fell 8-2 shortly thereafter to allow Chicago to tie things up at 1-1.
The final doubles match proved to be the most intense. Leading 5-1 in the set, Catherine Xu and Daryn Ellison were just three games from giving Chicago a 2-1 advantage in the match. The Sagehens’ Shivani Doraiswami and Caroline Casper roared back to force a tiebreak at seven games apiece. The pairs traded points until going into the third changeover at 9-9. Xu and Ellison took advantage of the rest, coming out of the break and winning the tiebreaker 11-9 to put Chicago up going into singles.
Casper and Doraiswami took the lead back for the Sagehens’, boosting them to 3-2 after wins on courts one and four, respectively. A 6-4, 6-0 win by Chicago’s Claire Handa over Mary Ann Zhao on court two evened things up at 3-3 but was short lived as Emily Chen took her match at court five, 6-4, 6-3 over Alyssa Rudin to put the Sagehens back on top 4-3.
Jacinta Chen saw her opportunity to clinch the match for Pomona-Pitzer on court six. She fought through a first set tiebreak, claiming the set 7-6 (2) over Laura Gutierrez. She came into the second set with a new fire, cruising through the set 6-2 to clinch the match for the Sagehens.
To round out the semifinals, No. 1 Emory relied on its captain, senior Bridget Harding, to clinch the team’s 6-3 victory against No. 4 Carnegie Mellon on Saturday. The Northport, New York native faced off against the Tartan’s Cori Sidell on court one. Harding took the first set 6-3, but went down 0-4 to start the second set.
Harding went on a tear after that, winning six games in a row to not only win her match, but send her team to their second consecutive ITA Team Indoors final.
“I saw next to me, [Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico] was down the same way,” Harding said. "Seeing that she was down and she was fighting gave me the gas to do that too.”
“It’s awesome, we’re having a lot of fun,” Harding said. “We have a very fresh team; we have literally half freshman. We’re adjusting to that and feeling that. This is their first time getting to play Division III dual matches, so it’s exciting for them and it’s exciting for us upperclassmen to see them do that.”
Emory’s starting freshmen went 1-2 on Saturday, with Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico providing the contingent’s lone win in singles. Gonzalez-Rico won in a similar fashion to Harding, taking the first set against Carnegie Mellon’s Vinaya Rao but fell to 1-4 in the second set before winning five straight games to win 6-2, 6-4.
Emory and Pomona-Pitzer face off Sunday at 12 p.m. ET at the McCallie Tennis Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When the teams faced in last year’s ITA Division III National Women’s Team Indoor Championship final, the Eagles got the better of the Sagehens, winning 5-4.
No. 2 Pomona-Pitzer def. No. 3 Chicago 6-3
No. 1 Emory def. No. 4 Carnegie Mellon 6-3