Feb. 29, 2004

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In a contest that came down to a tiebreaker in the final singles match, the 53rd-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide edged out the 28th-ranked University of Tennessee women's tennis team, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon at the UT Varsity Courts.

With the match score tied at three points apiece, Tennessee freshman Blakeley Griffith (Middleburg, Va.) and Alabama sophomore Ashley Bentley battled in a dual of over three hours that would eventually be decided by a tiebreaker in the third set. After Griffith dropped the first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-4), the gutsy freshman battled back to claim a 6-2 win in the second set. Bentley, however, nipped Griffith, 8-6, in the final tiebreak to clinch the victory for 'Bama. Griffith, who entered the day with six-match win streak, now owns a singles record of 21-6 this season.

With the win, the Tide improve to 5-4 this season and 1-1 in the SEC, while the Orange and White fall to 5-7 overall and 1-1 in the conference. UA now trails UT, 24-11, in the all-time series between the two squads. Tennessee had to do some lineup juggling once again, as junior Ashley Robards (Henderson, Ky.), who usually plays at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles, was out due to injury.

The competition began with some dramatic doubles play, in which Alabama claimed the tandem point with a victory via tiebreaker at the No. 1 position. The Lady Vols, however, struck first in doubles, as the pair of Griffith and sophomore Sabita Maharaj (Gainesville, Fla.) cruised by Nathalie Koppelle and Mari Muller, 8-1, at the No. 3 spot. The Tide would even things up, though, with an 8-5 victory by Millie Begovic and Melissa Minor over juniors Majen Immink (Kent, U.K.) and Breanna Kray (Surrey, B.C., Canada) at No. 2, meaning the doubles point would rest upon the winner of the No. 1 match.



At the completion of the No. 2 doubles contest, UT senior Tammy Encina (Miami Beach, Fla.) and sophomore Melissa Schaub (Lexington, Ohio) trailed 'Bama's Ashley Bentley and Robin Stephenson, 3-6. The Lady Vol duo, however, would mount a comeback to tie the match at six games each, and eventually force a tiebreak. In the decisive tiebreak, the Alabama pair edged out Encina and Schaub by a score of 7-4 to seize the doubles point for the Crimson Tide.

Tennessee evened the match score at 1-1 after freshman Victoria Jones (Tyne & Wear, U.K.) registered the most dominant performance of her career with a 6-0, 6-1 defeat of Minor at No. 5 singles. The win improved Jones' record to 13-9 this season and gives her five victories in the last seven matches.

The Lady Vols took the lead for the first time as 62nd-ranked Maharaj notched a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Koppelle at the No. 2 spot. Maharaj now boasts a 17-8 singles record and has won five of her last six matches.

Alabama would quickly tie the score, however, when Stephenson defeated 27th-ranked Encina, 6-3, 6-0, at No. 1 singles. The Crimson Tide then re-gained the lead, as Muller downed Schaub, 6-1, 6-2, at the No. 6 position.

Immink brought the score back to 3-3 by taking out Begovic, 6-4, 7-5, at the No. 4 spot. The junior made an impressive come-from-behind in the second set by winning six of the last seven games after trailing 1-4. Immink's singles record now stands at 13-6 this year, including four wins in a row.

Of Tennessee's seven losses this year, six have been by scores of 4-3. Additionally, in their first 12 matches of the season, the Lady Vols have faced 11 ranked opponents and eight teams that received bids to the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

The Orange and White will continue their two-week homestand next weekend when Arkansas comes to Knoxville on Fri., March 5 and LSU pays a visit on Sun., March 7.

#28 Tennessee vs. #53 Alabama
Knoxville, Tenn. - February 29, 2004
Final score: UA 4, UT 3

No. 1 Robin Stephenson (UA) def. Tammy Encina (UT), 6-3, 6-0
No. 2 Sabita Maharaj (UT) def. Nathalie Koppelle (UA), 6-2, 6-2
No. 3 Ashley Bentley (UA) def. Blakeley Griffith (UT), 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(6)
No. 4 Majen Immink (UT) def. Mille Begovic (UA), 6-4, 7-5
No. 5 Victoria Jones (UT) def. Melissa Minor (UA), 6-0, 6-1
No. 6 Mari Muller (UA) def. Melissa Schaub (UT), 6-1, 6-2
Order of finish: 5, 2, 1, 6, 4, 3*

No. 1 Bentley/Stephenson (UA) def. Encina/Schaub (UT), 9-8(4)
No. 2 Begovic/Minor (UA) def. Immink/Kray (UT), 8-5
No. 3 Griffith/Maharaj (UT) def. Koppelle/Muller (UA), 8-1
Order of finish: 3, 2, 1*

*Clinching point



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