Smukler defeated Rebecca Berger 6-3, 6-3 at West Hills Tennis Center in the Second Round to book her first quarterfinals appearance in her three years competing in the national tournament. She improves to 15-4 with her third career NCAA championship singles victory.
Berger was 17-1 overall this year and was the #5 ranked player in the West Region coming into the day. She got past Leah Bush of Williams earlier in the day.
Smukler, who is ranked #9 in the Northeast Region, closed out her victory with three straight wins to break a 3-3 dealock in the second set.
Saturday morning, Smukler will face Wesleyan University's Victoria Yu for a spot in the Final Four. Despite the regionality of the matchup, Smukler and Yu have never faced each other before.
Earlier in the day, Smukler broke serve three times in the opening set and roared out to a 5-0 lead against her First Round opponent, Hope College's Claire Hallock, and claimed an efficient 6-2, 6-2 victory at the Kalamazoo YMCA.
Hallock entered the tournament with a 25-2 record and was recently chosen as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Central Region Player to Watch, an award that Smukler won on the national level last year.
"I feel like I was just really focused going into the match. I really wanted to win the first set and not have to come back," said Smukler. "So that was really a goal for the match. That's what helped me win – staying really focused and aggressive and not letting her come back and hit winners on me."
Hallock came back to win two games and pull to within a 5-2 deficit, but Smukler held serve for the victory.
She took a 2-1 lead in the second set and then won three straight games to go up 5-1. Hallock staved off multiple match points on her service game but again Smukler held for a 6-2 set and a straight sets match win.
Making her third appearance in the NCAA tournament has helped Smukler know what to expect, and even though she has now won her First Round match in each of the last two seasons, she says that with this level of competition, the nerves are still there.
"I'm still obviously nervous because everyone is regardless of age or number of times in it here. I am definitely less nervous than freshman year and last year because I know what to expect. Everyone is good. You have to come out full force in every match and I feel like I have an edge on some of the younger players now because I have more maturity on the court and can stay calm in certain situations."
In her first NCAA tournament appearance, first year Jackie Bukzin took the first set from University of Chicago's Marjorie Antohi but the match went to a third set tiebreaker, where Bukzin had match point, but eventually fell by an 8-6 scoreline.
Bukzin got broken in her first game of the day, but then held and broke back to tie the first set at two games apiece. She took a 3-2 lead and then, with the match tied at 3, held two lengthy games for the fourth and sixth win, with a hold sandwiched in between for a 6-3 first set victory.
Antohi took the second set 6-3 with a late flurry of games, setting the stage for a back and forth third set in which Bukzin took a 4-2 lead and Antohi came back to a 5-4 advantage before the two players traded games and set up a 6-6 deadlock.
Bukzin went up 2-0 in the tiebreaker, then after Antohi had taken a 4-2 lead, she fought back with three straight points and led 5-4 and eventually 6-5, but the University of Chicago junior kept the match alive and went on to clinch the tiebreak 8-6.