Tennis Finishes with Impressive NCAA Runs

Junior Carol Lee prepares to return a ball in her Round of 16 matchup against Auburn’s Carolyn Ansari in Orlando, FL // Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech Athletic Association

Both men’s and women’s tennis made noise at the NCAA Championships, but in different ways.

After closing out the season with a 13-14 record and a 4-8 record within the ACC, the men’s tennis team clinched the 9th seed in the ACC championships, squaring off against eighth ranked Miami. Unfortunately, the Jackets could not get the job done in the last two matches where they were down 2-3.

Juniors Andres Martin and Keshav Chopra continued their unbeaten  streak to five straight in a dominating 6-2 win, but Miami took the doubles play advantage with two wins of their own. In the singles, Martin and fellow junior Marcus McDaniel mounted comebacks in their respective matches. McDaniel came back from a 4-0 deficit in the first set to take the set at 7-5 and followed it up with a 6-3 clinching victory in the second set. Martin lost a close one, 4-6, in his first set but dominated in his next two, triumphing 6-0 and 6-3 respectively. 

Unfortunately, these efforts weren’t  enough to get the singles advantage, and Tech’s run ended on a final set between Chopra and Miami’s Martin Katz. Chopra took the first set 6-3, but couldn’t get the second set in a 6-1 defeat. Still, the match was within reach until Katz took the third set – and the Miami win – in a 6-4 battle.

Although  a close loss against a comparable opponent hurts, the team sent the All-American and All-ACC duo of Martin and McDaniel to Orlando,FL in hopes of capturing a NCAA singles or doubles championship. Martin qualified for the singles tournament as the #6 seed while the duo garnered a #30 spot in the doubles tournament. Still, as their win earlier in the year against #1-ranked South Carolina showed, this doubles team wouldn’t be an easy out.

Martin and McDaniel proved they belonged – and more – with wins over No. 19 Vanderbilt,  No. 10 Michigan State and No. 7 Michigan. While they couldn’t take down the reigning national champion Texas doubles squad, a run to the semi-finals from the No. 30 seed is impressive and capped off a great season for the dynamic junior duo.

On the women’s side, the team came into the ACC tournament as the No. 7 seed due to their 13-8 record and 7-6 showing in ACC play. They drew a first-round matchup with a Syracuse team they handled easily in the regular season to the tune of a singles sweep. After taking care of business with another sweep, they moved on to face a formidable 6th ranked Duke team.

Tech took the doubles advantage against Duke due to standout performances from sophomore Alejandra Cruz and junior Kylie Bilchev in a 6-0 decision. The experienced duo of junior Carol Lee and graduating senior Rosie Garcia Gross captured the doubles victory with a hard fought 6-4 battle. Lee, Cruz and Bilchev continued their strong showings on the singles side. First, Lee captured 6-1 and 6-4 victories to put Tech up 2-1 against the Blue Devils. Then, Cruz worked Tech out of a 3-2 deficit with two clutch set victories, winning 6-4 in both. However, Bilchev delivered the masterstroke with a close 7-5 opening set victory that she capitalized on to deliver a second set victory – and the Tech win – to the tune of 6-3.

The Jackets drew No. 5 NC State in the semi-finals, but fell to the Wolfpack. Tech lost the advantage early in both singles and doubles play. This time, NC State did the catching up and eliminated a 4-2 lead against the Gross-Lee doubles pairing to win the doubles point, 6-4. Tech was swept in singles play, 5-0, behind dominating NC State wins on the first and third courts.

Fortunately, the season didn’t end there – the Jackets slotted into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 17 seed and drew a first-round matchup against No. 37 UCF. Although UCF captured the doubles point, Tech dominated the singles side. Gross, Lee, Cruz and Bilchev collected impressive wins, with the only close set being a 4-3 battle against Cruz and UCF’s Sophia Biolay. Even though the next round ended in a loss to No. 16 Florida, Lee and Bilchev came back to compete in the NCAA singles tournament. While Bilchev forced a three-set match against Auburn’s Ariana Arsenault, it wasn’t enough to advance past the first round.

However, Lee took the first two sets, 6-4, against UCF’s Marie Mattel to advance to the round of 32. There, she dominated the first set against No. 21 Elza Tomase from Tennessee. The second set proved to be a much tougher fight, hovering at a 2-2 tie early in the second set. Fortunately, Lee went up 4-2 due to a timely break and held on in the final two games to advance to the round of 16, the first Jacket to do so since 2018. Her magical run continued against No. 23 Carolyn Ansari of Auburn, who took the first set, 6-3. Lee didn’t relent, breaking Ansari to go up 5-3 and then taking the next two games for a decisive third set. She put on a clinic in the set, sweeping  Ansari in all six games to advance to the quarterfinals in a historic effort.

While she lost in two sets to NC State’s Amelia Rajecki, it is hard to overstate the impressive nature of Lee’s tournament run and season. She became the first Tech female tennis player to reach the quarterfinals since Irina Falcone in 2010, went 29-12 in singles, won the ITA Southeast Regional doubles title and earned her second All-American nod.

Both men’s and women’s teams will return in September.