McKnight and Co. Send DePaul to BIG EAST Semifinals on Saturday
April 29, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – DePaul’s top three singles players pushed the third seeded Blue Demons past sixth-seeded Rutgers, 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship on Friday at Leeper Park. DePaul advances to the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship and plays No. 43 and second-seeded USF on Saturday. The first serve of the semifinal dual is scheduled for Noon at Notre Dame’s Courtney Tennis Center North Courts.
“Today was a great match and we beat a very good Rutgers team,” Blue Demon head coach Mark Ardizzone said after his team’s three hour and 30 minute dual.
The Blue Demons captured the dual’s momentum early as they swept all three doubles matches.
Gia McKnight and Kelsey Lawson dominated on the second doubles court which foreshadowed their individual singles performances later in the dual. McKnight and Lawson overpowered Leonora Stalnick and Vanessa Petrini, 8-2 for the pairs’ fifth win of the season.
DePaul’s first and third doubles teams finished at the exact same time and with the same result -- a win that would give the Blue Demons a 1-0 lead heading into singles action.
“Our top three singles players – Katarina (Milinkovic), Gia and Kelsey continue to be the backbone of the team; while Gia really set the tone today. Her big time performances in singles and doubles gave us a lot of momentum,” Ardizzone added.
Rutgers (16-6) evened the score at one with a win on the sixth court before McKnight’s dominate play shifted the momentum back in favor of the Blue Demons.
McKnight’s explosive serve and strategic ball placement led the junior to an impressive 6-3, 6-1 win over Jennifer Holzber on the second court. The win was the juniors 20th of the season while McKnight has won four of her last five and improves to 11-7 in the second position.
Milinkovic followed with a two-set -- 6-3, 6-1 win over Amy Zhang. The win was the senior’s 95th of her career while she improves to 16-5 in the top position.
Rutgers registered its final point of the match before Lawson clinched the dual with her sixth straight victory in the third position.
“Kelsey showed how far she has come by winning a tough three-setter with the match on the line,” Adrizzone said of his freshman standout who has yet to lose to a BIG EAST player this season.
Lawson dropped her first set 6-1 to Morgan Ivey, but the freshman did not back down as she refocused and tied the match at one with a 6-4 set-two win. With the match on line, Lawson controlled the final set and clinched DePaul’s victory with a 6-3, set-three win.
The win was Lawson’s team-leading 26th of the year, while she improves to 8-3 in the third position.
The Blue Demons are facing USF for the second straight year in the semifinals. Last season DePaul topped the Bulls 4-0 to send the Blue Demons to their second-straight BIG EAST Championship Match.
“We will need an extraordinary effort to beat a great USF team tomorrow,” Ardizzone added in closing.
No. 3 DePaul 4, No. 6 Rutgers (BIG EAST Quarterfinals)