Top Seeds Hold Serve at BIG EAST Tennis Championships


April 26, 2014

By Richard Finn
Special to

Championship Central: Men | Women | Photo Gallery

FLUSHING, N.Y. – Form held up at the BIG EAST Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships presented by New York Life on Friday as the top four seeds all advanced to the semifinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Playing on their home courts, the top-seeded St. John’s Red Storm (14-7) men blanked No. 8 Villanova (4-17) 4-0 while No. 2 seeded Marquette (16-8) threw a shutout at No. 7 Creighton (10-9). Both teams did not drop a set.

“It’s really nice to get into a tournament to feel good that you are doing well and that you build on that,” said St. John’s coach Eric Rebhuhn, whose team now faces No. 4 Xavier.

The Musketeers (14-10) turned back a gritty No. 5 Butler Bulldogs (10-10) team 4-2 with senior Mesa Mei clinching the match on his fifth match point for a 6-2, 7-5 win over junior Austin Woldmoe at No. 2 singles.

Marquette will take on No. 3 DePaul (10-13), a 4-0 winner under the lights over No. 6 Georgetown (8-13). Sophomore Sten Leusink clinched the match at No. 2 singles for the Blue Demons firing an ace on his first match point to beat junior Alex Tropiano 6-1, 7-6 (7-1).

In the women’s tournament, top-seeded DePaul and No. 2 Marquette eased into the semifinals with shutouts over No. 9 Villanova and No. 10 Butler, respectively, who had scored upsets on Thursday in the first day of the tournament at the home of the U.S. Open.

“It’s good to get one out of the way and start building on it,” DePaul coach Mark Ardizzone said of the team’s 4-0 win. “We were a little nervous and little sluggish with our feet but pretty much it was what I expected. We were not out here all day and so we have some energy for the next few days.”

Ranked No. 46 in the country according to the ITA, the lady Blue Demons were a perfect 4-0 in BIG EAST regular-season play without dropping one match.

“We know that there is a huge target on our back. We’ve got to handle that pressure if we are going to be a really, really good team,” said Ardizzone.

The Blue Demons (20-3) now play No. 4 St. John’s (11-8), which nipped No. 5 Georgetown 4-3 in a tense battle.

Red Storm freshman Stephanie Elgegren outlasted Hoya junior Sophie Panarese, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the deciding match at No. 5 singles. After wasting three match points serving at 5-0 and then two more in the final game, Elgegren put away a forehand to claim the 3-hour-and-10-minute marathon.

“It came down to the wire and we did just enough to get the win,” said St. John’s coach Taka Bertrand. “It’s always an emotional match when we play Georgetown.”

Marquette (13-10) advanced to play No. 3 Xavier (18-5) with a workman-like 5-0 win that pleased coach Jody Bronson.

“Our kids came out with really good energy and great determination and played pretty well,” said Bronson, who praised the play of senior Rocio Diaz who stepped in at No. 6 singles for a 6-0,6-2 win over freshman Jocelyn Koester.

Xavier beat No.6 Seton Hall 4-1 to set up a rematch with Marquette. The Golden Eagles edged Xavier 4-3 in the regular season and Musketeers coach Eric Toth is looking forward to another dog-fight.

“They are a spitting image of us,” said Toth. “Their girls fight, claw, compete, they play consistently, just like our girls. It is going to be a heck of match. I got a lot of confidence in my girls. Twenty-three matches and they have showed up for all 23. They will show up for No. 24.”

Xavier took the doubles point and clinched the match at No. 1 singles with freshman standout Sydney Liggins beating senior Chloe Sher 6-1, 6-3.

“She is outstanding,” said Toth. “She’s tough, good competitor, has some weapons. She has a lot going for her.”

Nearly eight hours later, Toth was celebrating another match clinching win by his Musketeer men.

“Mesa is a lot like Sydney,” said Toth. “I don’t think he played his best today but he competed and that is what you have to do in this type of atmosphere.”

Go here for Friday’s men’s quarterfinal scores

Go here for Friday’s women’s quarterfinal scores

Saturday schedule
Women’s Semifinals at 9 a.m.
#1 DePaul vs. #4 St. John’s
#2 Marquette vs. #3 Xavier

Men’s Semifinals at Noon
#1 St. John’s vs. #4 Xavier
#2 Marquette vs. #3 DePaul

Women’s Backdraw at 3 p.m.
Villanova vs. Georgetown
Butler vs. Seton Hall

Men’s Backdraw at 6 p.m.
Butler vs. Villanova
Creighton vs. Georgetown