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April 23, 2011
CARY, N.C. - Florida State continued its remarkable late-season run by taking down top-seeded Duke in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Tennis Tournament on Sunday. Do the Seminoles have one more stellar effort left for Sunday's championship game
Fifth-seeded FSU hopes to answer that question with a resounding "yes" when it faces fifth-rnaked and second-seeded North Carolina in Sunday's 11 a.m. championship match at the Cary Tennis Park.
But the Seminoles, who rallied to beat Duke by a 4-3 score on Saturday, don't face an easy task against the Tar Heels, who figure to be motivated strongly by two factors - a 4-2 regular-season loss to the 18th-ranked Seminoles on April 15, and an upset loss to seventh-seeded Georgia Tech in last year's ACC Championship final.
UNC also enters Sunday's match off an impressive win, a hard-fought 4-2 victory over fellow Top 10 member Miami in the final match of Saturday's semifinal session.
FSU (15-7) is riding the wave of eight straight wins, including four consecutive victories in the past eight days over teams ranked among the nation's top 11. That included a 4-2 win over third-ranked Duke in last weekend's regular-season finale at Tallahassee.
The Blue Devils (22-4) appeared on the verge of turning the tables on Saturday. After dropping the doubles point, the Blue Devils rallied to take a 3-2 lead behind singles wins by Rachel Kahan and Mary Clayton at No. 5 and No. 6, and Ellah Nze at No. 2.
But FSU fought back, tying the match at 3-3 as Katie Rybakova outlasted Nadine Fahoum 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7) on the No. 1 court. Then Noemie Scharle outdueled four-time All-ACC performer Rkba Zsilinszka for a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 win at No. 3, lifting the Seminoles past Duke in ACC Championship play for the second straight year. FSU edged the then-defending champion Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the 2010 tournament by a 4-2 score.
Sunday's ACC title match will be Florida State's second in school history and its first since falling to Duke in the 1994 Championship at Charlotte, N.C.
North Carolina entered Saturday's semifinal round as the nation's No. 5 team, while Miami was ranked No. 6. The Tar Heels' hard-fought 4-3 win in the regular-season meeting on March 9 confirmed the accuracy of those rankings, and Saturday's match played out in much the same air-tight fashion.
After UNC captured the doubles point for an early 1-0 lead, competitive matches at every one of the singles matches left the outcome hanging in the balance for over three hours.
The Tar Heels broke through with wins on the No. 4 and No. 6 court just minutes apart. Lauren McHale turned back Kayla Rizzolo by a 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 score at No. 4, while freshman Tessa Lyons was a 6-2, 7-6 winner over Brittany Dubins at No. 6.
Miami got on the board with a win at No. 1, where ACC Player of the Year Bianca Eichkorn topped Zoe De Bruycker 6-3, 7-6 (7). The singles win was the 132nd of Eichkorn's career, moving her past former teammate Laura Vallverdu as the winningest player in school history.
The Hurricanes also prevailed at the No. 2 spot, where Anna Bartenstein scrapped for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6) come-from-behind win over the Tar Heels' Jelena Durisic. But the Tar Heels returned to winning form at the No. 3 spot, where Shinann Featheston took a three-setter over Gaby Mejia, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, to clinch the match.
North Carolina will be bidding for its sixth ACC title on Sunday, and its first since 2002, when the Tar Heels topped Duke in the championship match at Raleigh, N.C.