Photo by: Scott Flanders
Ashley Chao earned her 100th dual-match victory, singles and doubles combined, in her final match as a Triton Tuesday.

No. 29 UC San Diego Outlasted in NCAA First-Round Thriller by No. 23 Azusa Pacific, 4-3

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 29 University of California San Diego women's tennis team lost a heartbreaking thriller to No. 23 Azusa Pacific University, 4-3, in a preliminary-round match of the 2019 NCAA Division II Championship at Northview Tennis Courts on Tuesday afternoon.

With the result, UC San Diego sees its 2019 campaign end at 12-8. Azusa Pacific improves to 15-8, and advances to the round of 16 at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla., May 22-25. The sides split their two regular-season meetings, with the road team winning each time.

Tuesday's match took just under four hours to play, at three hours and 58 minutes.

The day had gotten off to a good start for the Tritons, as they procured the doubles point for the first time in their three matchups with the Cougars. Fourth-year-senior Ashley Chao (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) and junior Becky Chou cruised 6-2 at No. 1 over Kara Hinton and Jacky Wagner. It marked milestone career win No. 100 for Chao combined over both singles and doubles in dual matches. Chao's fierce forehand into the back corner forced a return into the net on the final point.

Four-year partners Madison Hale and Alexandra Weil then defeated Anna Savchenko and April Wong at No. 2, 6-3, for the clinch and early 1-0 edge. There, it was Weil's tough serve that the Cougars could only send back into the net on match point. Freshman Shweta Kumar and redshirt junior Chloe Wight had their contest thus halted at No. 3, tied 4-4 against Petra Ivankovic and Audrey Stewart.

Singles began with straight-set victories for APU's Wong over Wight at No. 5, 6-3, 6-1, and an easy decision for Kumar at No. 6 over Mikayla Rinker, 6-3, 6-3. Wagner evened the score at 2-2 over junior Valeria Corral at No. 4 by an identical 6-3, 6-3.,/P>

Chou, a singles All-American in 2018, rallied from having surrendered the first set, to dispatch Hinton at No. 3, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. Her second set was a quick one. The Tritons in fact lost the opening set in five of the six singles matchups, all but Kumar.

Through Chou, UC San Diego still clung to a 3-2 edge, with the final two singles courts featuring seniors Chao at No. 1 and Weil at No. 2. Both veteran Tritons dropped the first set in tiebreaks, and took the second by the same 6-3 score.

Weil ultimately succumbed to Savchenko, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-2, putting all eyes on Chao's court.

Facing the nation's 25th-ranked Division II singles player in Ivankovic, Chao was just narrowly unable to hold a 5-3 lead late in that decisive third set. She pulled back that second set for her first success against the APU sophomore in their three singles showdowns this year.

Chao produced a spectacular lob shot that landed in the back left corner for a break and that 5-3 advantage. Ivankovic denied her the ability to serve out the match. Still up 5-4, Chao led 15-0 and 30-15, before Ivankovic held her serve to level matters at 5-5. Chao had an incredible backhand winner left in her pocket, but again, Ivankovic wouldn't fold, as she stormed back and won the match, 7-6 (10-8), 3-6, 7-5.

Corral (San Diego/Mater Dei Catholic HS) and Wight were back in the lineup after missing the final two contests of the regular season to rest slight injuries. Corral had her nine-match win streak, the longest by a Triton in 2019 in either singles or doubles, snapped with her defeat. It was Corral's first loss at No. 4 (9-1) this year.

Head coach Liz LaPlante completed her milestone 40th season in charge, and bid a fond farewell to three tremendous seniors in Chao, Hale and Weil, all four-year standouts. Chao finished with career dual-match records of 44-38 in singles and 56-27 in doubles. Hale was 18-18 in singles and 62-24 in doubles. Weil went 48-30 in singles and 62-22 in doubles. All 62 of those doubles triumphs came with Hale.

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 37 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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