May 22, 2013

Le Wins School's First-Ever NCAA Singles Championship Match; Advances to Play No. 3 Seed At 6 AM Pacific Thursday

NCAA Championships Central

Katie Le NCAA Video!

Behind the Scenes Photos of Katie Le's Illinois Experience

NOTE: KATIE'S LE MATCH ON THURS., MAY 23 IN THE SECOND ROUND WILL BE AT 6 AM PACIFIC LIVE!

Winning the school's first-ever individual match at the NCAA Singles Championships, Santa Clara junior and Milpitas, Calif. native No. 26 Katie Le defeated No. 30 Emina Bektas of No. 10 Michigan 7-6(3), 7-5 in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championship in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.  Le is 22-12 this season and Bektas finishes at 24-9.

Le now advances to play the No. 3 seed Robin Anderson of No. 7 UCLA on Thurs., May 23 (time TBA).  Anderson advanced to the second round by defeating No. 28 Nadia Ravita of Kentucky  (6-3, 6-4).  "Katie has beaten players who have beaten Robin so we know she can win, be in the match," said Bronco head coach Ben Cabell. "We hope the pressure will be on the other side and Katie can play loose, and play free."

Le fell in the NCAA Singles Championship first round last year in three sets and Cabell, the 2013 West Coast Conference Coach of the Year, believes that experience last year really helped her this year.  "She has been through this process before. She was a little less nervous, more comfortable. Katie has had a lot of experience at this level and she is use to competing with them."

"I am focused on my next match already, but I am so relieved to have won," said Le. "Last year I lost in the first round and this year I really wanted to win a round to start.  I proved I do belong here and this win helps my confidence.  I am really excited to play the No. 3 seed in the next round."

Le, the 2012 WCC Player of the Year, carries a 3.79 GPA in computer engineering.  She was First Team All-WCC this year in singles and Second Team All-WCC in doubles.  Le is joined at the NCAAs by her doubles partner and best friend, Jessica Agra, and she said that helped a lot as well.  "Having Jess here is a huge help," said Le. "For the other three seniors – I am so grateful to have them. They have been so supportive – they were up early at Benson watching the match on the big screens. I love them!"

Cabell felt like the wind was a big factor in the first round match.  "Katie did a bit better job of playing her game and handling the very rough wind. That made a difference in the match. Emina, her opponent, is a very strong young lady with a very tough serve. Katie broke her at a couple of opportune times.  Emina's serve was definitely the best part of her game."

The match was back and forth in the first set.  Down in the first set, Le battled to tie it up 3-3. The duo wouldn't budge against each other, knotting it up 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6.  "We have talked a lot this year about Katie staying aggressive at the end of sets and matches," said Cabell. "She continued to play her game and play aggressive. We really focused a little more on return game because her opponent's serve was so strong.  We did a couple of things to help her on the return game.  Honestly, Katie stayed composed and did not get flustered with the wind. She was not getting upset with conditions – that was the main thing."

Because Le's opponent "hit the ball so hard" it took her a couple games to adjust.  "After a couple of games I got into it and returned her serve really well. I was pretty excited when I stepped up and got the tiebreaker," said Le.

Le won the first set tiebreaker – 7-3.  Le went up 3-0 before Bektas battled back to tie it 3-3. "I pulled out some tough points, hit some passing shots when she came up to the net. I hit some smart balls to get the tiebreaker," added Le.

Le went down 3-1 in the second set, but tried not to think about the score and went up 4-3 by focusing on each point.  "It's so easy to be up 3-1 and lose three games so I knew I had to stay really focused," said Le.

Tied 4-4 and 5-5 again, Le went up 6-5 on her serve.  "When I went up 30-0 I felt like I was going to close it out," said Le.  "I could tell by her body language she was getting really upset so I knew if I could return her first serve I could win it."

Cabell complimented his senior class and Le for such a fine turnaround in the Bronco program.  "Four or five years ago we were struggling to win matches.  This year we won a share of the WCC title and won a match here to start.  It's a remarkable turnaround and we have our senior class to thank for working so hard. I couldn't be prouder. Katie does most of the work. But it's really worth it and it's pretty impressive."