Feb. 12, 2012
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Down a set and trailing 4-0 in the second set, freshman Joanna Henderson rallied for what ultimately became the deciding point in three sets, as the Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team upset No. 12 Northwestern, 4-3, Sunday in consolation play of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
"It was a great feeling," Henderson said. "I was getting a bit nervous towards the end, but to do it for the team and have everyone there supporting means a lot. Hopefully, I'm in more situations like this. It was a great win for the team."
The Lady Vols (6-3) locked up the doubles point for the ninth straight time and used singles victories from the three freshmen (Henderson, Sarah Toti and Caitlyn Williams) in their lineup to win their sixth match in the last seven at the Boar's Head Sports Club.
Although Tennessee led 3-1 and never trailed, it appeared to be in Northwestern's (5-3) favor with leads on courts two, three and six.
That's when Henderson made her move.
Falling 6-4 in the first set to Nida Hamilton and trailing 4-0 in the next, Henderson reeled off five straight games to take a 5-4 lead. After Hamilton tied it at five, Henderson closed the set, 7-5.
Meanwhile, Kata Szekely lost in straight sets (6-2, 6-3) to Belinda Niu. After losing her first set 6-2 and trailing 5-2 in her second set, Brynn Boren staged a comeback of her own before falling short in a 7-3 tiebreaker.
With the match tied 3-3, all eyes fell on court six, where the match would be decided in the third set.
The momentum from Henderson's second set carried over, as she jumped out to a 5-0 lead.
The suspense wouldn't end there, however. Hamilton broke serve, held and made it 5-2.
After the changeover, though, Henderson let everyone wearing orange breathe a sigh of relief. With a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 win, her fifth consecutive, the Lady Vols picked up their third win over a Top 12 team (No. 5 Baylor and No. 10 Michigan) and their second of the weekend.
"I'm just so proud of Jo to come through," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "She just fought tooth-and-nail up and down the line. For a freshman to hang tough in that kind of match and under that kind off pressure is just fantastic. I can't say enough."
Henderson also had a hand in UT's doubles point. Teamed with Szekely, the duo shutout Kate Turvy and Brittany Wowchuk to clinch the early 1-0 lead. Boren and Toti provided the other half of the point, winning their 12th consecutive doubles match, defeating Niu and Hamilton, 8-1.
Leading 1-0, it was Tennessee's two other freshmen in the lineup that stepped up. Caitlyn Williams avoided losing consecutive matches for the first time in her career with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
Northwestern got on the board as No. 26 Kate Turvy notched a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Natalie Pluskota.
Toti, coming off two SEC Freshman of the Week honors, set up the dramatic finish with a 6-1, 6-4 win.
"Our freshmen stood up under pressure against a great opponent," Patrick said. "We lost at the top and we won at the bottom with those three. THey overcame a lot of stuff over here. Northwestern is a great team and I couldn't be more proud."
Coming home with two wins in the National Indoors for the third time in 14 appearances, the Lady Vols will prepare for their first true road matches of the season next weekend in Big Ten country. Friday, UT is back in action at Indiana, and Sunday, the Lady Vols will travel to Ohio State.
ITA NATIONAL TEAM INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS - CONSOLATION
#17 Tennessee 4, #12 Northwestern 3
1. #26 Kate Turvy (NU) def. #24 Natalie Pluskota (UT) 6-4, 6-1
2. #86 Brittany Wowchuk (NU) def. #27 Brynn Boren (UT) 6-2, 7-6 (3)
3. Belinda Niu (NU) def. #59 Kata Szekely (UT) 6-2, 6-3
4. Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. Veronica Corning (NU) 6-3, 6-2
5. Sarah Toti (UT) def. Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) 6-1, 6-4
6. Joanna Henderson (UT) def. Nida Hamilton (NU) 4-6, 7-5, 6-2
1. Natalie Pluskota/Caitlyn Williams (UT) vs. Linda Abu Mushrefova/Veronica Corning (NU) 3-6 DNF
2. #18 Brynn Boren/Sarah Toti (UT) def. Belinda Niu/Nida Hamilton (NU) 8-1
3. Kata Szekely/Joanna Henderson (UT) def. Kate Turvy/Brittany Wowchuk (NU) 8-0
Order of finish: Doubles (2, 3); Singles (4, 1, 5, 3, 2, 6)