STANFORD, Calif. - After fourth-seeded North Carolina erased a 3-0 deficit, Baylor senior Jelena Stanivuk put it on her shoulders to finish off a 4-3 NCAA Quarterfinal victory for the fifth-seeded Lady Bears on Sunday evening in Stanford, Calif. With the win, Baylor earns a berth in Monday's national semifinal for just the second time in program history.
"We knew it was going to be a really tough match," head coach Joey Scrivano said. "We have a lot of respect for North Carolina. Even with things were going our way and it looked like momentum was totally in our corner, I still didn't want to get too confident, because this North Carolina team has won a lot of tough matches this year. They're the ACC champions, so we knew we just could not let up."
Baylor (29-3) cruised out to a 3-0 lead after taking the doubles point and two singles courts in straight sets, but the Tar Heels (26-6) had won the first set on the other four singles courts to get in position for a huge run. From there, UNC ripped off three singles victories, two in straight sets, to get the score tied at 3-3 with only the matchup between their own Lauren McHale and BU's Stanivuk on Court No. 4.
Stanivuk, who came into the match with a perfect 11-0 career singles mark in the NCAA Championship, failed to hold a 5-2 lead in the first set, losing 7-5. The Baylor senior came back with big break points in the second set to win 6-2 and force the deciding set. In the third, Stanivuk went up a break to make it 4-2 and held serve for 5-2. In the final game, each player had four game-points, but Stanivuk worked the back right corner of the court to force a final miss from McHale to secure the team victory. The win moved Stanivuk's career NCAA singles record to 12-0, while marking her 13th consecutive win this season.
"On Jele's third set - It was huge, she's played so many big matches and she's come through pretty much every time," Scrivano said. "She's got a wealth of confidence and experience and that really made the difference in the end."
Stanivuk also had a solid day in doubles, leading the way with fellow senior Taylor Ormond in clinching the doubles point. The pair defeated UNC's Jelana Durisic and Tessa Lyons, 8-4, on Court No. 2 with great net play. Baylor's duo of Diana Nakic and Sona Novakova had secured the first win of the day with a convincing 8-2 defeat of Zoe De Bruycker and Gina Suarez-Malaguti.
"The doubles point can be important and in this match it was," Scrivano said. "Every point is important and we did a great job at two and three doubles, I couldn't be happier or prouder of them. At No. 1 doubles we fought our way back, we just competed really well today. I tip my hat to North Carolina, they made it tough, they did not make it an easy match for us."
In singles, Baylor's Nakic and Nina Secerbegovic claimed straight-set wins to give the team that 3-0 lead. The 49th-ranked Secerbegovic was the first to finish, using a punishing baseline game to take down No. 108 Durisic, 6-1, 6-1, on Court No. 2. Right next door on Court 3, Nakic was on her way to victory up 6-3, 3-2, when 74th-ranked Shinann Featherston went down with a sprained knee. The match was called due to the injury, securing Baylor the point.
From there, UNC started to mount the victories, forcing the last point to come down to the wire. UNC's Suarez-Malaguti defeated Karolina Filipiak 7-6(3), 6-2, on Court 5, No. 13 De Bruycker defeated No. 14 Novakova 7-6(8), 6-4 on Court 1, and Lyons defeated Ormond 6-1, 6-7(0), 6-4 to tie the match at 3-3 and set the stage for BU's Stanivuk.
The win was Baylor's 19th in a row on the season, dating back to a March 18 loss to Kansas State. During the run, Baylor has beaten 13 opponents ranked no lower than No. 41.
Baylor will face No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Stanford on their home court at 4 p.m. PT/6 p.m. CT on Monday in the national semifinal of the NCAA Championship. The Bears and Cardinal will face each other in a rematch of last season's NCAA Quarterfinal in which Stanford took the 4-2 victory on their way to the national title.