Back on March 15, the Vanderbilt women’s tennis team lost a match 4-3 at Mississippi State. That was the last loss of the regular season and just the third of the year for the Commodores.
Since then, Vanderbilt has won 11 in a row and now enters the NCAA Tournament needing to win six more to claim its second national title in program history. The first came in 2015, and Astra Sharma was a redshirt freshman.
Now a senior, Sharma checks in at #11 in the ITA national singles rankings -- just one spot behind teammate Fernanda Contreras. Sophomore Christina Rosca is #44. Those three, plus junior Summer Dvorak, sophomore Emma Kurtz, and freshman Amanda Meyer, form a sixsome that rolled to an SEC regular season title at 12-1 and followed that up with an SEC Tournament title, and enter the tournament as the #1 overall seed and arguably the favorites to win the thing.
If you’re new here, you probably don’t follow college tennis that closely, so a few words on the format of these events. A college tennis game consists of three doubles matches and six singles matches, but only seven total points are available (best-of-seven), so let’s explain. First, the three doubles matches are played for a possible one point; whichever team takes two of the three doubles matches wins the point. That’s followed by the six singles matches, which are played simultaneously, and whoever gets to four overall points (including the doubles point) first wins the match. You’ll frequently see individual matches go unfinished because once one team has clinched the overall game, all the other games end.
The doubles team of Christina Rosca and Amanda Meyer has been nearly unbeatable this season, with an overall record of 16-1 and a nine-match winning streak going back to March 9. Fernanda Contreras has typically teamed up with Astra Sharma, and that duo has gone 8-3 on the season; though Contreras occasionally teams with Summer Dvorak as well. The third doubles team of Kurtz and junior Emily Smith has been a bit less successful at 6-8 on the season.
In singles play, Sharma (11-2) and Contreras (18-4) give Vanderbilt a powerful duo, but Summer Dvorak (13-3) was the hero of the Commodores’ title-clinching win over Florida in the regular season finale, and Rosca (13-4) and Meyer (16-4) have more than held their own. The sixth spot in the lineup has alternated between Kurtz (7-7) and Smith (5-3.)
Vanderbilt’s opponent today is Alabama State, which is 12-8 on the season and won the SWAC for the second year in a row. Today’s match will start at 2:00 PM CT, and vucommodores.com has a live stream if you feel like spending your afternoon watching tennis. Assuming Vanderbilt wins, it will play the winner between Ohio State and Clemson on Saturday.