Stephanie Wagner had just gotten doused with a cooler of ice water, when she looked back at her University of Miami tennis teammates and deadpanned, before laughing, “Did I deserve that?”
Actually, she did.
In the last home match of her career at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center, ninth-ranked Wagner, a senior, set the UM women’s record Saturday for career singles victories with her 134th – a 6-4, 6-2 win over Marie Norris of TCU.
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A few minutes later, the seventh-ranked Hurricanes defeated No. 37 TCU 4-0 in the NCAA Round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16 in the Division I tournament. The Hurricanes will play 10th-ranked Michigan at 1 p.m. Thursday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“The ice water felt great,’’ said Wagner, of Amberg, Germany. “I didn’t expect that. I wasn’t playing maybe my best tennis, but I was being positive, fighting, staying in there and got the W.’’
She said the 134 wins – her career record is now 134-42 – was “a relief.’’ She surpassed fellow German and former Canes great Bianca Eichkorn.
“It feels great, but that’s not our focus right now,’’ Wagner said. “I’m just excited we’re going to [the Sweet 16]. Hopefully, we’ll go far.”
The Hurricanes, under coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, have now advanced to the Sweet 16 for 11 consecutive years. Of 317 Division I NCAA women’s tennis teams, the Canes are one of only four to have entered the NCAA tournament with an active streak of at least 10 Sweet 16 berths.
The other three heading into this weekend were Stanford at 34, UCLA at 16 and Florida at 11.
“We just take it one day at a time, we put one foot in front of the other and we keep moving,’’ Yaroshuk-Tews said of her team’s consistency. “This is a goal of ours every year. And to do it again is special, for sure.’’
In NCAA tennis, the first team to four points wins, with victories in two of three doubles matches earning one point.
The Hurricanes (21-5) almost pulled a repeat of last year’s doubles-point loss, before No. 3 UM duo Silvia Fuentes and Ana Madcur fought back from deficits of 1-4 and 4-5 to defeat Olaya Garrido-Rivas and Mia King, 7-5, on their second match point.
The large cluster of Hurricanes fans standing beside that doubles court cheered loudly while the relieved UM players took a break before beginning singles.
“We came out a little tight in doubles,’’ Yaroshuk-Tews said. “I don’t think we were playing as aggressively as we should have played. But we found our game, which is what we needed to do, and got it together at the end.
“TCU is a very good team. They fight hard, they’re very competitive and they put a lot of balls in the court.’’
Said Fuentes, a sophomore from Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain: “We were making a lot of errors but I knew if we could play more solid and stay calm and positive there was a chance to turn it around.
“That victory was very important for the team, because then we felt more comfortable going into singles, and it put more pressure on TCU.”
After the match, Yaroshuk-Tews presided over an informal ceremony in which Wagner was presented with a bouquet of roses and a helium “Congratulations’’ balloon. Fans, family members and even former players were present. Fellow team members surrounded Wagner and repeatedly chanted, “It’s great… to be… a Miami Hurricane – then “Stef, Stef, Stef, Stef…’’
“It’s one thing to win that many matches,’’ Yaroshuk-Tews told the Miami Herald. “It’s another thing to win them in the Atlantic Coast Conference at the No. 1 position. To do it with the class and humble demeanor she has is just so cool.’’
In addition to Wagner’s victory, UM got singles wins from Madcur (6-4, 6-1 over Alexis Pereira) and Clara Tanielian (6-1, 6-3 over Mia King).
UM’s 12th-ranked doubles team of Wagner and Wendy Zhang also won, defeating 34th-ranked Seda Arantekin and Caroline Wegner, 6-2.
The Canes lost 4-2 to Sweet 16 opponent Michigan in February in the ITA National Indoor Championship in Madison, Wisconsin. Michigan is coached by UM Sports Hall of Famer and eight-time All-American Ronni Reis Bernstein, who graduated from Miami Sunset Senior High.