URBANA, Ill. — The first and second seeds got knocked out in the first two rounds of the NCAA singles championships.
So Nebraska assistant coach Hayden Perez told Mary Weatherholt on Friday that it was her turn to take care of the third seed.
Weatherholt did, ousting UCLA's Robin Anderson 6-7 (4), 6-0, 6-0 to become the first Husker to reach the national quarterfinals.
“It’s the best individual effort in Nebraska history,” Perez said. “It’s just so much fun.”
Weatherholt, a senior from Prairie Village, Kan., improved to 28-1. She’ll play Georgia’s Lauren Herring, the No. 6 seed, in the quarterfinals at noon Saturday. Matches can be seen live online at fightingillini.com.
Friday’s match had some tense moments, but Perez said he felt that Weatherholt was always in control.
She let the first set escape after leading 3-0 in the tiebreaker, but came back strong.
“I was playing a little tentative again,” she said.
So she decided she needed to go for her shots and play her game. “I just focused on that in the second and third (sets). I think I just started being aggressive and taking control of the points.”
Perez said the scores of the last two sets were deceiving because Anderson (30-5) put up a good fight. Weatherholt trailed 40-0 in the first game of the third set and 40-15 in the second game.
“I think the key,” Weatherholt said, “is staying disciplined and picking the right balls to redirect, or change direction.”
Weatherholt said her legs weren’t tired after she and teammate Patricia Veresova earned a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (6) victory over Georgia State’s Masa Grgan and Abigail Tere-Apisah in their doubles opener Thursday.
“It was just my shoulder hurting,” she said. “What can you do?”
Weatherholt got some rest before she and Veresova played Maria Belaya and Jeltje Loomans in their second doubles match. The Husker duo beat the team from William & Mary 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2.
Weatherholt and Veresova improved to 22-2 and will face UCLA’s Anderson and Skylar Morton on Saturday. The UCLA pair won in straight sets (7-5, 6-4) over Karla Bonacic and Petra Niedermayerova from Kansas State on Friday afternoon.
Perez said Weatherholt’s run in the tournament, after losing in the first round last year, is no surprise. He and head coach Scott Jacobson saw something in her — something intangible — during the recruiting process.
“She has a big heart, and she’s a very intelligent player,” he said. “There is no quit in her. There is no one in the country I wouldn’t put her against.”
Weatherholt said she was really happy after her singles win Friday, and Perez said her sense of fun has helped her get deep in the tournament.
Her father, Reynold Simpson, watched Weatherholt and Perez warm up before her match Thursday, a 6-2, 6-1 win against Cal’s Klara Fabikova. They were laughing it up and playing games against each other. They’ll play cards between matches.
Simpson told Perez it was one of the best parts of the day.
“Everybody else was so serious other than the laughter from you two. It was completely quiet out there,” Simpson told Perez.
“Mare-bear was out there having fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
Former Omaha Burke standout Jackson Withrow lost his second-round doubles match. He and Texas A&M partner Junior Ore fell to Georgia Tech’s Vikram Hundal and Juan Spir 6-4, 7-5.