Perez-Somarriba Rallies to Reach NCAA Quarters
By Alex Schwartz
ORLANDO, Fla. – It took two hours and 58 minutes, but it ended with celebratory fist pumps from the top-ranked player in the country.
Junior Estela Perez-Somarriba of the University of Miami women’s tennis team edged No. 77 Paola Diaz-Delgado of VCU, 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3), in the NCAA Singles Championship Round of 16 Wednesday night at the USTA National Campus.
The top seed in the field, Perez-Somarriba becomes the fourth player in program history to earn multiple trips to the NCAA quarterfinals. She will now face No. 43 Asuka Kawai of Illinois Thursday at 5 p.m.
“You have to give so much credit to both of those girls, just laying it on the line, physically and mentally,” Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said. “Both players were physically pushing and testing their limits. The ball tolerance of both of them per point, I would say, was an average of probably 10 shots . . . I’ve seen a lot of really good college tennis matches and that’s got to be top-five.”
The matchup of Spaniards who entered the day with a combined singles record of 77-9 in 2018-19 was a thriller from the get-go. Perez-Somarriba, who improved to 40-5 on the year, lost the opening set of a match for the first time since Jan. 12, after taking 29 in a row.
The Madrid native had dropped the opener just seven prior times in 78 outings since the start of the 2018 calendar year and all were defeats. This was the first time she took a match in comeback fashion since Nov. 2, 2017 and the first time in spring play since May 24, 2017 in the opening round of that year’s NCAA Singles Championship.
“We’ve never seen Delgado from VCU,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “We heard that she was very good, we heard that she has the ability to absorb really well, we heard that she’s got all the shots—and she definitely did.”
After six breaks to open the match, Perez-Somarriba logged the initial hold to take a 4-3 lead. Diaz-Delgado, however, countered with three games in a row to win the opening set, 6-4.
The second set was all Perez-Somarriba, though. The two-time reigning ACC Player of the Year won 24 of the 31 points, including 22 of the last 26, and took the set, 6-0, to force the split.
“At the beginning of the second set, she started to take the ball on the rise a little bit more,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “Not necessarily hit bigger, but just get it back on her opponent’s side of the court faster. We needed to change the vibe of the points.”
Perez-Somarriba kept her strong play going into the third set, taking leads of 2-0 and 4-1. After Diaz-Delgado pulled within 4-3, Perez-Somarriba broke at love to go in front, 5-3.
Diaz-Delgado then took three consecutive games, including fighting off a match point at deuce in the 5-4 affair, to grab a 6-5 edge in the finale.
Perez-Somarriba responded by breaking at love to force a tiebreaker, in which she won four of the first five points. Diaz-Delgado took the next two to pull within one, but Perez-Somarriba grabbed the final three to close out the match and record a 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3) triumph.
“I think that’s experience,” Yaroshuk-Tews said of what Perez-Somarriba showed to earn the win. “There have been times in the past where maybe she has been in a situation like that and she has felt as though the match was slipping away. I wasn’t sitting there thinking [that was the case], I just felt like it was another great point that happened to go the other way. Unreal tennis from both sides.”
With the win, Perez-Somarriba is now 9-2 all-time in NCAA Singles Championship play, taking sole possession of third place on the program’s tournament wins list. She reached the Final Four in 2017 and the Sweet 16 in 2018.
In addition, she joins Sinead Lohan (2015-16), Miami associate head coach Laura Vallverdu (2009-10) and Ronni Reis (1985-86, 1988) in the aforementioned group of Hurricanes with multiple Elite Eight berths.
Perez-Somarriba also moves into a tie for the third-most singles victories in a season in program history and becomes the sixth Hurricane to reach the 40-win mark.
For more information on the NCAA championships, including schedules, brackets and live stats, visit the tournament homepage HERE.
NCAA Singles Championship Round of 16
No. 1  Estela Perez-Somarriba (UM) def. No. 77 Paola Diaz-Delgado (VCU), 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3)
NCAA Singles Championship Quarterfinals
5 p.m.: No. 1  Estela Perez-Somarriba (UM) vs. No. 43 Asuka Kawai (IL)