Feb. 27, 2004

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Senior Tammy Encina (Miami Beach, Fla.) made a triumphant return from injury at the No. 1 singles and doubles positions, leading the 28th-ranked University of Tennessee women's tennis team past Auburn University, 6-1, to open Southeastern Conference play on Friday night at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.

The win improves the Lady Vols' record to 5-6 overall this season, while the Tigers fall to 5-3. Tennessee has now won 12 consecutive matches against Auburn and owns a 21-6 advantage in the all-time series between the two squads.

"Everyone really contributed in the win today," UT Co-Head Coach Mike Patrick said. "We have played a very demanding schedule, dropping three straight matches by scores of 3-4, and it is a very positive thing for us to get back on the winning track. We just need to continue improving as the season progresses."

The Orange and White grabbed a 1-0 lead in the match by sweeping all three doubles contests with relative ease. The duo of Encina and sophomore Melissa Schaub (Lexington, Ohio) cruised by Auburn's Petra Bercik and Carolina Ramirez by a score of 8-1 at No. 1 doubles. Freshman Blakeley Griffith (Middleburg, Va.) and sophomore Sabita Maharaj (Gainesville, Fla.) then clinched the doubles point for UT with an 8-3 victory over Ashley Cowart and Isabel Rosenbrock at the No. 3 spot.

Knowing that the doubles point was already in hand, the Lady Vol tandem of juniors Majen Immink (Kent, U.K.) and Breanna Kray (Surrey, B.C., Canada) still were able to maintain focus and defeat Liz Sauerborn and Sarah Suitor, 8-5, at the No. 2 position. Immink and Kray are now 5-1 when paired together this season.



Although Encina returned from injury, Tennessee's singles lineup was juggled around once again, as the usual No. 3 player, junior Ashley Robards (Henderson, Ky.), was out due to injury. Griffith, however, did an outstanding job in her place, posting a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Rosenbrock at the No. 3 spot to give UT a 2-0 lead in the match. Griffith now boasts a 21-5 singles record this season, including a 4-0 mark at the No. 3 position. She is also riding a six-match win streak, which is the longest by a Lady Vol this season.

The Big Orange continued to roll as 62nd-ranked Maharaj downed Ramirez, 6-2, 7-5, at No. 2 singles to increase UT's lead to 3-0. Maharaj now has four victories in her last five matches and owns a singles record of 16-8 this year.

Encina, currently ranked 27th in singles, then clinched the victory for Tennessee with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Bercik at the No. 1 spot. The senior All-American had been sidelined the previous three matches due to injury.

With the contest already decided, Immink increased the score to 5-0 by downing Sauerborn at No. 4 singles. After winning the first set, 6-2, Immink was edged out in a tiebreak, 6-7 (5-7), in the second set, but battled back to claim a 13-11 victory in a grueling match tiebreaker. The triumph gives the junior a 12-6 singles record this season, including five wins in her last six matches.

The winning trend continued for UT, as freshman Victoria Jones (Tyne & Wear, U.K.) cruised by Suitor, 6-3, 6-2 at the No. 5 position, making the match score 6-0. Jones now owns a 12-9 singles record in her initial season of collegiate tennis.

Tennessee nearly completed the 7-0 sweep, however, AU's Nancy Peaden edged out Schaub in a hard-fought No. 6 singles match, 3-6, 6-3, (12-10), to salvage the Tigers' lone point of the day.

UT returns to action against No. 53 Alabama on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Lady Vols will continue their two-week homestand when Arkansas comes to Knoxville on Fri., March 5 and LSU pays a visit on Sun., March 7.



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