Caitlyn Williams won her first career singles match Saturday.
Jan. 21, 2012
FLUSHING, N.Y. - Playing with just five Lady Vols in the singles lineup, the Tennessee women's tennis team lost its season opener, 4-3, to ninth-ranked Virginia on Saturday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
Recovering from nagging injuries, senior Natalie Pluskota was limited to doubles action, placing the Lady Vols at a 1-0 deficit to start the match. The lone senior played from the No. 1 spot in the lineup in every match last season.
"We lost 4-3 with a missing person in our singles lineup against a team that is top-10 and a quality opponent that's already played some this spring," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "It was a really good performance for us. I'm really proud of our kids. Our freshmen handled it pretty well considering it was their first day, really, on the job under that pressure.
"We won the doubles point and had chances in all three. We took care of business there with freshmen on each court so that was solid. In singles, we competed hard. Virginia came out and played well and took it to us a little bit. We learned a lot and I think we'll be even better tomorrow."
Tennessee (0-1) evened the score by clinching the doubles point via wins from 18th-ranked Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti (8-6) and Kata Szekely and Joanna Henderson (8-2). Despite never previously playing together, Szekely and Henderson dominated the Cavalier duo of Maria Fuccillo and Hana Tomljanovic, both of which are ranked in doubles.
Freshman Caitlyn Williams, who spent much of the fall recovering from shoulder surgery, played her first career singles match at UT, defeating No. 75 Erin Vierra in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. The win gave the Lady Vols their first and final lead at 2-1.
"Not a bad way to start her singles career," Patrick said. "Erin is a good, quality player, but so is Caitlyn. She just hasn't had a chance to play very much. I thought she did a great job of taking the ball early and doing what she needed to do. She handled everything well. She recovered after losing a tight doubles match, came back out there and did a great job in singles."
Following Williams' victory, Virginia (1-0) reeled off a trio of straight-set victories to ensure a season-opening win.
After dropping the first set 7-5, Szekely returned the favor in the second set and then upset No. 30 Lindsey Hardenbergh in the tiebreaker, 10-6. The only Lady Vol to win in both singles and doubles Saturday, the singles tilt gave Szekely the highest-ranked win of her career.
Virginia's win was just its second all-time against the Lady Vols and snapped UT's five-match winning streak in the series.
Although the Lady Vols are 0-1 for the first time since 2007, there were plenty of positives to take away from the experience.
"We knew we were talented," Patrick said. "To handle the adversity of not having a full squad, it was a tough way to go against a great team. We competed well and fought hard on every court. Virginia is a quality opponent. If that's where we're at right now, I think we can compete with a lot of teams, especially come March."
Tennessee wraps up its season-opening weekend when it returns to action Sunday at the National Tennis Center against fourth-ranked North Carolina, following the match between Texas and Virginia.
#9 Virginia 4, #18 Tennessee 3
1. #29 Emily Fraser (UVa) def. #27 Brynn Boren (UT) 6-4, 6-1
2. #59 Kata Szekely (UT) def. #30 Lindsey Hardenbergh (UVa) 5-7, 7-5, 1-0 (10-6)
3. Li Xi (UVa) def. Sarah Toti (UT) 6-3, 6-4
4. #85 Hana Tomljanovic (UVa) def. Joanna Henderson (UT) 6-4, 6-3
5. Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. #75 Erin Vierra (UVa) 6-1, 6-4
6. Caryssa Peretz (UVa) by forfeit
1. Emily Fraser/Li Xi (UVa) def. Natalie Pluskota/Caitlyn Williams (UT) 8-6
2. #18 Brynn Boren/Sarah Toti (UT) def. Lindsey Hardenbergh/Erin Vierra (UVa) 8-6
3. Kata Szekely/Joanna Henderson (UT) def. Maria Fuccillo/Hana Tomljanovic (UVa) 8-2
Order of finish: Doubles (3, 2, 1); Singles (5, 1, 4, 3, 2)