The streak is alive for the Miami Hurricanes’ women’s tennis team, and special thanks go to a pair of senior roommates, Melissa Bolivar and Brittany Dubins.
The 12th-ranked Canes, who had made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament five consecutive years, beat No. 18 Oklahoma 4-0 on Saturday afternoon on Miami’s campus.
The Canes (21-5) are one of 16 teams throughout the country advancing to the national championships May 15-20 at Athens, Georgia. Miami will play either UCLA or Ole Miss on Thursday.
Saturday’s drama came early when Miami and Oklahoma split the first two doubles matches. That meant that Bolivar and Dubins would have to win their match if the Canes were to earn the doubles point.
“There is no one else I’d want to be on the court with than Meli [Bolivar],” said Dubins, who had been on the bench until this weekend, when the suspension of teammate Kelsey Laurente gave her an opportunity to enter the lineup.
“She’s come up big so many times that I felt confident even though we were down 7-5 and were down set point.”
In college tennis, the doubles matches are played up to eight. Miami was able to climb back to 7-6, which is when they saved match point. A few moments later, a half-volley by Dubins tied the score at 7-all.
That forced a best-of-12 tiebreaker, which Miami led 4-1 before Oklahoma rallied to trail 6-5. But that’s when Bolivar hit a wicked forehand winner down the line to give Miami the doubles point and a crucial 1-0 lead.
Bolivar said she was not nervous, even though she knew all eyes were on her, not only from the fans and coaches but also all the other players who had finished their doubles matches.
“It’s not the first time — in my four years here, I’ve had a few of those,” said Bolivar, who is from Barranquilla, Colombia. “I think it’s fun. That’s why you practice — for those moments when you have to show you are better. And I think we were the better team.”
Miami was certainly better in the ensuing singles matches, when junior Lina Lileikite of Latvia, senior Monique Albuquerque of Brazil and sophomore Clementina Riobueno of Venezuela won their matches in straight sets.
Abuquerque has won 18 consecutive singles matches. She and Riobueno, who combined to form the nation’s eighth-ranked doubles team, lost as a duo earlier in the day, so vindication came with their singles wins.
Once Miami got the four points needed to clinch, the other three matches were left unfinished.
But Miami was in fairly good shape in the unfinished matches anyway: Dubins led 7-5, 3-0; Bolivar led 0-6, 6-3, 2-1; and No. 1 Stephanie Wagner of Germany was in a big fight with Whitney Ritchie, winning the first set 7-6 and trailing 2-1 in the second.
Canes coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said she trusted her seniors, Bolivar and Dubins, in that key doubles point.
“That was key for momentum,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “But now [in the Sweet 16 round in Georgia], every match gets tougher and tougher.’’