Jantz's Improbable Comeback Lifts Fresno State to Upset Victory Over No. 11 California
May 16, 2004
BERKELEY, Calif. - One year ago, Courtney Jantz was carried off the court after sustaining a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in the 2003 season opener. Thoughts of never again playing a college tennis match entered her mind.
On Sunday, she was carried off the court yet again -- only this time, it was after performing a stirring comeback that lead Fresno State to perhaps the biggest victory in program history.
Jantz saved four match points and rebounded from a 5-2, love-40 deficit in the final set for a thrilling 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Jessica Shu at No. 6 singles to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 upset win over 11th-seeded California in a second round NCAA Tournament match at the Hellman Tennis Center in Berkeley, Calif.
The victory propels Fresno State (22-3) into the round of 16 for only the second time in program history. The Bulldogs will play host and sixth-seeded Georgia on Thursday at 3 p.m. PT at Henry Field Stadium in Athens, Ga.
"This was simply unbelievable," head coach Simon Thibodeau said. "I am completely out of words to describe this match. Courtney deserves all the praise for hanging in and coming back like she did. To fight back from being down that far is really amazing."
Jantz's triumph capped a day full of comebacks for the Bulldogs, who defeated the Golden Bears (17-9) for the second time this season and only the second time in program history.
Fresno State was forced to rebound from a shaky start that saw the team lose the doubles point for just the fourth time all season. California clinched the point with an 8-5 win at No. 2. At the time, the tandem of Jelena Pandzic and Lucia Tallo, ranked 27th, led seventh-ranked Raquel Kops-Jones and Jieun Jacobs 7-6 and were serving for the match.
But the Bulldogs' first trip to the round of 16 since 1999 was culminated through solid singles play, especially at the top of the lineup. Leading the way was the 14th-ranked Pandzic at No. 1, who chose another opportunity to stamp herself as one of the best players in the nation with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Kops-Jones, currently ranked No. 1 in the country. It marked the second time this year Pandzic has beaten Kops-Jones, a Fresno native, and improved the Bulldog freshman's record to 23-1.
Just as crucial was the performance of Tallo at No. 2. The junior played near flawless tennis in crushing Jacobs 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour. The win was the sixth in the last eight matches for Tallo, who is now 21-10 this year.
"I really found my rhythm today," Tallo said. "I had a lot of motivation out on the court after the loss yesterday, and I played very well."
Cal also picked up an early singles win at No. 5, where Nicole Havlicek defeated Lucia Sainz 6-4, 6-4. That victory knotted the dual score at 2-2 with three matches remaining on the court - Nos. 3, 4 and 6.
The Bears took the lead 3-2 when 45th-ranked Sasha Podkolzina worked her way past Vlatka Jovanovic 7-5, 6-4 at No. 4. But Fresno State was about to receive a big comeback effort from Katharina Winterhalter at No. 3. The sophomore notched her team-leading 29th win by rallying from a 4-0 deficit in the second set to defeat 124th-ranked Catherine Lynch 6-3, 7-5. Winterhalter is now just one win shy of becoming the fifth player in program history to win 30 matches in a single season.
Of the four to have won 30, however, Winterhalter is the only person not to play No. 1 or 2 singles.
That set the stage for Jantz, who had never before clinched a match in her Fresno State career. After losing the first set 6-4, Jantz rebounded to win a break-filled second set 6-4. But she found herself in trouble immediately in the third set as Shu elevated her game to take a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead. After the Klein, Texas, native cut the advantage to 4-2, Shu appeared more than ready to drive the final nail into the Bulldogs' coffin when she held serve to go ahead 5-2.
Jantz bent as far as she could, dropping the first three points on her serve at 5-2 before battling to win three points in a row to make the game score deuce. After surviving another match point by spinning off an incredible sharp-angled backhand winner, Jantz pulled out that game then broke Shu to make it 5-4.
Despite mounting pressure, Jantz continued to play better on every point, causing errors to creep in Shu's game. After holding to make it 5-5, Jantz took a lead in the match for the very first time when she easily broke to go ahead 6-5. As Jantz prepared to serve for the match, players and the smattering of Fresno State fans worked out their nerves by biting their nails and even their cell phone antennas. Jantz, however, was anything but tense, winning the first three points before claiming victory when a Shu forehand sailed long on match point, causing the Bulldogs to rush the court and mob Jantz in a delirious celebration.
Although Jantz appeared as far out of the match as she could be, she credited a simple game plan to help get her back into it.
"I just told myself, don't miss," said Jantz, who didn't lose more than one point in any of the last four games. "If she was going to win, she was going to have to beat me. I didn't want to give it to her."
Fortunately for Thibodeau, Jantz didn't give it to her, and because of it his team is headed to Athens.
"We've had a lot of different heroes this year," Thibodeau said. "I guess it was just Courtney's turn. The positive energy she displayed, and the positive energy she was receiving from all of her teammates, was very fun to watch."
As Fresno State continues its play in the NCAA Tournament, stay tuned to www.gobulldogs.com for blanket coverage. Match previews, recaps and interviews are all to be expected beginning Wednesday and running through the individual tournaments, in which Pandzic in singles and Pandzic and Tallo in doubles are making runs at national championships.
NCAA Tournament - Second Round
Records: Fresno State (22-3), California (17-9)
Records: Fresno State (22-3), California (17-9)
Round of 16 Matches
#4 Washington (20-5) vs. Arizona State (8-14), 6 a.m.
Fresno State (22-3) vs. #6 Georgia (18-4), 3 p.m.
#10 Northwestern (24-4) vs. #7 Duke (20-4), noon