ATHENS, Ga. – Down 5-4 and 6-5 in the third set of the NCAA Singles Championship semifinals, California’s Lynn Chi rallied both times to break Georgia State’s Abigail Tere-Apisah and tie the match on Sunday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Ultimately playing in her first third-set tiebreaker of the postseason, the 24th-ranked Golden Bear prevailed, 7-2, to knock off the 22nd-ranked Panther, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) and reach Monday’s national final.
“It feels great to be in the final,” Chi said. “It was not something I was expecting, but it feels nice. It was a really good match, and she played really well too. We just kept exchanging blows.”
The Cal sophomore (38-10 record) brings a five-match winning streak into the championship, in which she will play Virginia’s 32nd-ranked sophomore Danielle Collins (35-10). Monday's 9 a.m. PT/noon ET final will mark only the second time this tournament that Chi is ranked higher than her opponent; she defeated Clemson’s 33rd-ranked Romy Kølzer in the round of 32. Collins beat Duke’s 27th-ranked Ester Goldfeld in straight sets in Sunday’s other semifinal. She has won seven consecutive matches, including an NCAA singles round of 32 win over Cal senior Anett Schutting, 6-3, 6-3.
Chi is the first Bear to play in the singles final since 2011, when Jana Juricova became Cal’s second NCAA singles champion. Former Cal star Suzi Babos won the title in 2006. Chi is the last Pac-12 women’s player competing at the NCAA championships.
“It’s a huge honor to make a national championship final,” Cal head coach Amanda Augustus said. “It’s just speaks volumes about our program and how hard the girls work. We’ve talked all year about the depth of our program. Seeing Lynn take advantage of this opportunity and peak at the right time is very exciting. We’re very excited to have Cal represented in the final.”
In her first set against Tere-Apisah, Chi forged ahead 4-0 before the Panther won a game. The second-year Bear won the set, 6-4. Chi led 2-1 in the second set, but her Georgia State opponent won the set, 6-3, to force a third. As in the first, Chi rolled out to an early lead in the third set at 3-0. The GSU player tied the set, 3-3, and the tightly contested match went back and forth until Chi triumphed in the tiebreaker.
Sunday’s match marked Tere-Apisah’s second of the tournament against a Golden Bear, as the Georgia State senior knocked off Cal junior Zsofi Susanyi in the round of 32, 7-6(3), 6-1.
“I had to make a lot of adjustments,” Chi said. “I worked a lot with Cordell [Ho, Cal’s associate head coach]. She’d hit some amazing shots, and I’d look over at Cordell like, ‘That was too good.’ He worked really hard on my mental aspect to get me to just stay calm. Zsofi gave me a few pointers about how she served and how she played. Even though my game’s a little bit different from Zsofi’s, that gave me an idea of what to expect and how to play her.”
Chi has won some memorable third-set matches this season. She beat North Carolina’s top-ranked/seeded Jamie Loeb in the NCAA singles quarterfinals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, rallied to defeat Michigan’s ninth-ranked/ninth-16th-seeded Emina Bektas in the NCAA singles round of 64, 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, came from behind in the third set to beat UCLA’s Kyle McPhillips during the regular season, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), and clinch Cal’s come from behind win over the Bruins, and likewise rallied to beat Stanford’s Taylor Davidson, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, in Cal’s Pac-12-title clinching win over the Cardinal.
“As the season went on, Lynn got better and better,” Augustus said. “She had a few breakthrough wins at different points of the season, especially that UCLA match and making the Pac-12 semifinals in Ojai. She’s been consistent all year long if you look at her record. She’s steadily been getting better and better wins, higher quality wins. She’s putting it all together at the right time. She’s really, really excited.”
Of Tere-Apisah, Augustus added, “She’s a very good player. She makes a lot of adjustments. She never gave up. She has a lot of weapons – big forehand, backhand slice. She tried to defuse Lynn’s aggressive game. It was a very back and forth match. They both competed so hard. Lynn was really able to steady herself mentally and go for the shots when she needed to and be really brave.”
NCAA Singles Championship
May 25, 2014, in Athens, Georgia
University of Georgia – Dan Magill Tennis Complex (Feild Courts)