Chelsey Gullickson Falls In Three Sets In NCAA Semifinals
All-American Chelsey Gullickson finished her freshman year 43-10 in singles.
COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS----- Miami junior Laura Vallverdu snapped Georgia freshman Chelsey Gullickson’s 16-match winning streak, posting a 6-4,5-7,6-4 victory over her to reach the NCAA Singles final Sunday.
Gullickson finishes the season with a 43-10 singles record. She tied a school record with 69 combined wins in her first year of college tennis where she earned ITA National Rookie of the Year honors along with All-America distinction in singles and doubles. Naoko Ueshima (2008) and Agata Cioroch (2002) have registered 69 wins in a season for the Bulldogs.
“Chelsey had a fantastic freshman year, and it was a great run here, helping us to the Final Four and then reaching the semifinals of the singles too,” said Georgia coach Jeff Wallace. “I’ve very proud of her. She had her chances today even after losing the first set. She got down 5-2 in the second set, had a match point against her and came back to win that set and then got up in the final set. Now, we’ll look to next year and hopefully she can have another great NCAA Tournament when it’s back in Athens.”
For the first time in the singles tournament, the ninth-ranked Gullickson dropped a set. She began Sunday’s semifinal by building a 3-0 lead, picking up a break on Vallverdu’s first service game. Vallverdu notched a break in the fifth game and then held serve to square the set at 3-3. She picked up another break on Gullickson in the ninth game for a 5-4 lead and then used a strong service game to close out the set 6-4.
Gullickson opened up the second set with a hold and then broke Vallverdu for a 2-0 edge. However, the Hurricane got it right back in the third game. Then, she saved two break points during her service game to knot the set at 2-all. Vallverdu kept the pressure on Gullickson, and on her fifth break point opportunity, she converted to take a 3-2 lead on the Bulldog. Vallverdu held serve and once again broke Gullickson for a 5-2 advantage. Bolstered by a couple of forehand winners form the baseline and two nifty drop shots, Gullickson managed to break Vallverdu to close the gap to 5-3. She capped her next service game with an ace to make it 5-4.
Vallverdu opened the 10th game with an ace and then watched Gullickson storm back to win the next three points for another break opportunity. Vallverdu’s big serve brought the game back to deuce. Gullickson’s backhand return on a second serve sailed long to give Vallverdu a match point. Gullickson used a powerful crosscourt forehand to get it to deuce. Gullickson won a long rally for a third chance for a break and then a double fault by Vallverdu made it 5-5.
Now, Gullickson had a chance to reclaim a lead in the set. She quickly built a 40-15 edge before it went to a lengthy deuce game that Gullickson captured for a 6-5 lead. A couple of double faults by Vallverdu and two winners by Gullickson gave the Bulldog the second set at 7-5.
Gullickson punctuated the first game of the final set with an ace on game point for a 1-0 lead. They were on serve at 2-1, and then Gullickson went on the attack, blistering a pair of returns en route to a service break and a 3-1 lead. Vallverdu responded with a steady return game and collected the break back for a 3-2 margin. She held serve to tie it at 3-all. With Gullickson serving at 30-all in the seventh game, play was suspended due to lightning. The delay was for approximately one hour and 50 minutes.
When play resumed, Gullickson’s first forehand sailed long to give Vallverdu a break point chance. However, she came back to win the game and then Vallverdu rallied from triple break point to keep it 4-4. Vallverdu took a 5-4 lead as Gullickson had three forehands go deep that played a role in the service break. Vallverdu served for the match. This time, she converted on match point to earn a spot in the finals. It was her third straight three-set win in the tournament.
It was the second time this season that Gullickson fell in three sets to Vallverdu. They met in the round of 16 at the ITA All-American Championships this past October in Los Angeles. Gullickson was the first Bulldog to reach the NCAA semifinals since Cioroch in 2003 when she was the fourth seed. Gullickson’s 43 singles wins this season match the most by a Bulldog since Cioroch went 43-6 in 2002. It is the second most victories by a Georgia freshman, trailing only Shannan McCarthy who had a school record 46 in 1989.