Jan. 28, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Sixty schools competed in the ITA Kick-Off this weekend for 15 vacant spots the ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship, to be hosted Feb. 10-13 by the University of Virginia.
On Saturday, the 19th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team earned one of them. For the third consecutive year, UT will participate in the ITA National Indoors, punching its ticket via a 4-0 win over 22nd-ranked and previously undefeated Tulsa (3-1) at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.
"We are really excited to be moving on to Charlottesville," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "Our kids played great and I am really proud of them. We want to keep improving every day. We have a young enough team that the little goals like learning how to handle pressure situations, staying aggressive and playing hard are the little things that need to happen on a daily basis."
Including Friday's 5-0 win over UC Davis in the ITA Kick-Off opening round, Tennessee has evened its record at 2-2. Additionally, for just the fourth time in program history (2002, 1992, 1990), the Lady Vols' first two wins have come in the form of shutouts.
In doubles, Natalie Pluskota and Caitlyn Williams fell behind 2-1 early, but won four of the next five games to take a 5-3 lead. After Anastasia Erofeeva and Ewa Szatkowska claimed game nine, UT's top duo reeled off the final three games to win their third consecutive match together.
The 18th-ranked combo of Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti provided the doubles clinching point for the third time this season, improved to 4-0 in dual-match play and are tied for the longest doubles winning streak by a UT tandem this season with seven straight victories.
The pair, tied 3-3 early, won four of the next five games to take a commanding 7-4 lead. Tulsa's Bonny Davidson and Samantha Vickers tightened up the match, 7-6, before Boren and Toti served for the win.
Three Lady Vols who lost their first two singles matches of 2012 all won their second consecutive match Saturday to lift UT to victory.
After securing UT's victory Friday, Henderson was the first Lady Vol on the board Saturday. The Aberdeen, Scotland, native won her first set easily, 6-2, and then raced out to a 4-0 lead in set two over Maria Sant'Anna, a late add to the Golden Hurricane lineup. After Sant'Anna reduced the lead to 5-3, Henderson served for the win, marking the second time in her freshman season that she's won consecutive matches.
"It feels great," Henderson said. "We've been practicing really hard leading up to this weekend. It just feels great to win and be able to go on to National Indoors."
Boren, who has now won two straight after dropping the first two matches of the dual-match season, put the Lady Vols ahead, 3-0, with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Ewa Szatkowska. The super sophomore has won seven consecutive matches from the No. 3 spot in the lineup dating back to last season.
Needing one more point to secure its second consecutive shutout, Toti delivered her second consecutive win with a 6-4, 6-3 decision over Bonny Davidson. Toti became the fourth Lady Vol with at least eight wins in 2011-12 (Boren with 10, Pluskota and Kata Szekely with nine).
Before heading to National Indoors, the Lady Vols will host two more matches next weekend at the Goodfriend Tennis Center. Friday, Tennessee will host No. 21 Notre Dame at 5 p.m. and Sunday, UT will face No. 10 Michigan at 10 a.m. "We will prepare just like we normally do," Patrick said.
"We'll start working hard on Tuesday and then get out there and play on (this coming) Friday and Sunday. Both are top programs so we are going to have a lot of fun."
Sharp individually this weekend, the Lady Vols' mindset is anything but that.
"I think we want wherever anyone plays in the lineup to contribute to the wins for the team," Henderson said. "It is all about the team and if we can just keep playing hard and practicing hard then who knows what we will be able to do."
#19 Tennessee 4, #22 Tulsa 0
1. #24 Natalie Pluskota (UT) vs. #78 Anastasia Erofeeva (Tulsa) 2-6, 4-4, unfinished
2. #59 Kata Szekely (UT) vs. #63 Samantha Vickers (Tulsa) 1-6, 6-3, 0-1, unfinished
3. #27 Brynn Boren (UT) def. Ewa Szatkowska (Tulsa) 6-3, 6-2
4. Caitlyn Williams (UT) vs. Michelle Farley (Tulsa) 6-2, 3-4, unfinished
5. Sarah Toti (UT) def. Bonny Davidson (Tulsa) 6-4, 6-3
6. Joanna Henderson (UT) def. Maria Sant'Anna 6-2, 6-3
1. Natalie Pluskota/Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. Anastasia Erofeeva/Ewa Szatkowska (Tulsa) 8-4
2. #18 Brynn Boren/Sarah Toti (UT) def. Bonny Davidson/Samantha Vickers (Tulsa) 8-6
3. Kata Szekely/Joanna Henderson (UT) vs. Michelle Farley/Isaura Enrique (Tulsa), 6-4, unfinished
Order of finish: Doubles (1, 2); Singles (6, 3, 5)