NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Playing in their final match at home, seniors Taka Bertrand, Caroline Ferrell and Amanda Taylor each collected singles wins and sophomore Catherine Newman closed the match with a three-set victory to give No. 11 Vanderbilt a come-from-behind 4-3 win over No. 23 Kentucky (16-10, 5-6 SEC) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon at the Currey Tennis Center.
"It's always an extremely nerve wracking match because it is such a step, one team goes to the final championship site, while the other goes home," Vanderbilt women's tennis head coach Geoff Macdonald said. "Kentucky played great. All three seniors won their last match at home, which is really cool."
With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 20-5 on the season, its 11th 20-win season in school history. The win also sends Vanderbilt to its 10th consecutive round of 16 appearance.
Just like the regular season meeting a month ago, Kentucky jumped out to an early advantage by capturing the doubles point. Vanderbilt captured the first doubles match of the day as Bertrand and Newman defeated Megan Broderick and Alaina Trgovich 8-4 at the second position.
Kentucky evened the doubles in a close match on court one. With the match even at eight games apiece, Kentucky's Carolina Escamilla and Christine Johnston and Vanderbilt's Taylor and Courtney Ulery went into a tiebreaker. Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 4-2 lead in the tiebreak, but Kentucky won five straight points to win the tiebreaker 7-4 and capture the match 9-8 (4).
The decisive doubles match came on court three. Kentucky's Whitney Spencer and Sarah Woestmann rallied to defeat Ferrell and Keilly Ulery 9-7.
Vanderbilt evened the match at one with a victory at court three. Bertrand, playing in her last home match, defeated Woestmann in straight sets 6-2, 6-1. The Great Falls, Va., native improves record to 29-7 in her senior season and 123-34 in her career.
Kentucky regained the advantage at 2-1 with Lauren Meier's 6-2, 6-3 victory over Keilly Ulery.
The match was evened again at two after Taylor, another Vanderbilt senior, won in straight sets over Megan Broderick 6-2, 6-3. The victory improved Taylor to a perfect 6-0 in NCAA Tournament matches in her career.
The Wildcats took the lead again with a win on court four. Johnston defeated Courtney Ulery 6-3, 7-5 to give Kentucky a 3-2 advantage.
It appeared that court six would be heading toward a third set. After Ferrell won the opening set 6-3, Kentucky's Spencer was up 5-2 in the second set. However, Ferrell rallied, winning the next five games to win the second set 7-5 and square the match at three.
"For Caroline to win that match was huge," Macdonald said. "She has won some big matches for us this year."
Ferrell's victory set the stage for Newman's heroics on court two against Escamilla. After dropping the first 6-0, the Vanderbilt sophomore was down 6-5 in the second set. Newman came back to win the next game and force a tiebreaker which she won 7-0. Newman and Escamilla held serve through the first five games of the third set, with Newman holding a 3-2 edge. In the next game, Newman broke Escamilla's serve to take a 4-2 edge Newman won the next two games to win the third set 6-2 and seal Vanderbilt's 10th straight trip to the round of 16.
"I just tried to stay calm and play my game," Newman said. "I just wanted to play to win. (Vanderbilt assistant coach) Aleke (Tsoubanos) told me to step in to the court, so I just tried to take advantage and stay inside the baseline."
The win marked the third time that Newman has clinched a match when it was tied a three. Newman also won matches against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame when the score was tied at three to give the Commodores the victory.
With the win, Vanderbilt advances to the round of 16 and the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Okla. The Commodores will face the winner of the Auburn-Florida match. The Commodores defeated Auburn 5-2 in the regular season and has dropped two previous matches this season against the Gators.