Jan. 30, 2011
By Donnie Conley, Media Relations Student Assistant
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 12-ranked University of Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team took a big step towards its goal of reaching the ITA National Team Indoor tournament by knocking off No. 33 Ohio State, 6-1, on Sunday afternoon at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.
The match, which was part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, was Tennessee's first home contest at the Goodfriend Center since it underwent renovations in the offseason, adding two courts. Early on, it appeared that the Lady Vols were affected by the setting.
"We knew Ohio State would be tough," UT co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said "They have good athletes and are a scrappy team. I think our girls were a little too anxious and excited. Once they settled down, they did what they needed to do."
Sonia Hahn-Patrick on Tennessee's victory
The Orange and White started slow in doubles but finished strong. Natalie Pluskota and Brynn Boren recorded a victory at No. 1 and Rosalía Alda and Millie Nichols brought home the doubles point with a victory at No. 2 doubles.
In singles, Kata Szekely extended her winning streak to four, defeating Noelle Malley, 6-1, 6-3, to move UT ahead, 2-0.
Boren continued her stellar freshman campaign with a convincing, 6-0, 6-4, win over No. 125 Kelsey Haviland of Ohio State. Alda then wrapped up the victory for Tennessee with a 7-6 (4), 6-2, win at the third singles position.
Alda admitted afterward that she suffered from some pre-match jitters, even as a senior.
"It was our first home match which makes a huge difference," Alda said. "It's always hard to get a grip on things and not be nervous. Now we know what it feels like and we can get ready for the next match. I think it was a good thing that the match was tight."
UT advances to take on No. 17 Ole Miss tomorrow at 2 p.m. The Rebels defeated No. 27 SMU, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon. The last time Tennessee and Ole Miss faced off, the Big Orange was able to outlast the Rebels, winning a grueling, 4-3, decision in a five-and-a-half hour match in the 2010 SEC Tournament. The winner of tomorrow's contest will earn a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Tournament, held from Feb. 18-21 in Charlottesville, Va.
"It's going to be tough," Hahn-Patrick said. "We have a long history with Ole Miss. It's going to be a very long, tough match and we're going to be ready to play."
Ole Miss boasts the nation's No. 21-rated player, Kristi Boxx, who defeated national No. 2 Marta Lesniak in straight sets on Sunday. Boxx will be matched up with Pluskota, whose addition to the singles lineup has been a huge sparkplug for Tennessee.
"She's someone who really enjoys the spotlight and she loves playing in front of crowds and playing for her team," Hahn-Patrick said. "She brings a lot of energy and she's really excited to be back and able to play. It's exciting to see her back out there."
With the win, Tennessee upped its record over Big Ten teams over the last 12 seasons to 53-7. During UT co-head coach Mike Patrick's tenure at Rocky Top, the Lady Vols have put together an astonishing 74-14 (.840) mark against Big Ten teams, after going 8-9 in the years prior to his arrival.
The Big Orange also won its home opener under Patrick for the 23rd time in 24 seasons. In Hahn-Patrick's tenure, she is 13-1 in home openers.
Ohio State will face SMU in a consolation match tomorrow at 10 a.m.
Live scoring for tomorrow's matches will be available on UTLadyVols.com.
Fans are reminded to follow the Lady Vols on Twitter at www.twitter.com/UTLadyVols.
#12 Tennessee 6, #33 Ohio State 1
1. Natalie Pluskota (TENN) def. Paloma Escobedo (OSU) 6-1, 1-6, 6-3
2. #20 Brynn Boren (TENN) def. #125 Kelsey Haviland (OSU) 6-0, 6-4
3. #87 Rosalia Alda (TENN) def. Kara Cecil (OSU) 7-6 (7-4), 6-2
4. #116 Maria Sorbello (TENN) def. Gabby Steele (OSU) 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8)
5. Kata Szekely (TENN) def. Noelle Malley (OSU) 6-1, 6-3
6. Fidan Manashirova (OSU) def. Millie Nichols (TENN) 7-6 (7-2), 6-1
1. Natalie Pluskota/Brynn Boren (TENN) def. #64 Paloma Escobedo/Cami Hubbs (OSU) 8-5
2. #9 Rosalia Alda/Millie Nichols (TENN) def. #50 Kelsey Haviland/Gabby Steele (OSU) 8-6
3. Jennifer Meredith/Maria Sorbello (TENN) vs. Kara Cecil/Noelle Malley (OSU) 7-5, unfinished
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (5,2,6,3,1,4)