Miami knew its second-round NCAA Tournament match against Mississippi would be a tough one.
But this tough?
Call it a character-building day for the Hurricanes. That’s how UM women’s tennis coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews described it Saturday after Miami rebounded from losing two of three doubles matches to win four of six singles matches and defeat Mississippi 4-3.
The Hurricanes advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Team Championship for the 10th consecutive time and 11th of the past 12 years.
“It was intense,” Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year Sinead Lohan said.
That, it was, with two All-Americans — No. 11 Stephanie Wagner of UM vs. No. 10 Julia Jones of Ole Miss — pounding it back and forth and exchanging grunts and fiery chatter as players and coaches from both teams gathered courtside to see who would be the hero.
Wagner finally prevailed in a 6-1, 7-5 finale that included a touch of controversy and concluded with a bunch of fired up Hurricanes embracing at center court.
“Mississippi was out to take this [Saturday] and we knew it,” said Yaroshuk-Tews, whose Hurricanes (18-6) hosted the first two NCAA rounds for the 11th year in a row. “Typically teams come in here and by the beginning of the second set — the heat, the conditions — just roll over. That didn’t happen.
“We were playing way too passive. They jumped on us and we got scared. But to win four out of six singles matches against a team like this is tough, and our girls are tough. We proved that today.”
It was only the third time this season that the Hurricanes won a match after dropping the doubles point. In NCAA tennis, the first team to four points wins, with victories in two of three doubles matches earning one point.
“We didn’t have any rhythm in doubles,” said Lohan, who teamed with Wagner in an 8-4 loss to Jones and Natalie Suk. “The other girls were more aggressive. We were waiting for them to make the moves and hoping they’d miss.”
But after Lohan defeated Arianne Hartono 6-1, 6-3, Monique Albuquerque defeated Iris Verboven 6-4, 6-1 and Wendy Zhang defeated Erin Stephens 6-2, 6-3, Wagner made up for any earlier inconsistencies.
She breezed to the 6-1 first set, then, down 3-5, won the last four games.
Controversy ensued after the chair umpire overruled Jones for the third time in the match on a Wagner ball she called out. The point broke Jones’ serve and put Wagner at 4-5.
A fourth overrule would have been an automatic game penalty for Jones.
“You can’t friggin see!” a distraught Jones told the umpire before she lost the next three games.
“I think after that she got more confident,” Jones said. “It definitely was disappointing.”
Said Wagner: “That got her a little angry and helped me psychologically.”
The win, which ended Ole Miss’ season at 16-11, was Wagner’s third over a top-10 singles opponent in 2014-15.
Miami will travel to Waco, Texas, next week to meet the winner of Sunday’s second-round NCAA match between second-ranked North Carolina and No. 31 Dartmouth.
The Hurricanes played Atlantic Coast Conference rival UNC twice this season, falling both times.
“We’ve got to get ready,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “We can’t let a team beat us three times in a season. We just can’t let it happen.
“We tell them pressure is a privilege. … When we expect to win matches we win them. These next few days are about setting the mentality to advance.’’