March 6, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Playing outdoors at home for the first time this season, the No. 12 University of Tennessee women's tennis team (7-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) had little trouble adjusting to the windy conditions, opening the SEC portion of its schedule with a win and handing No. 57 Mississippi State (8-1, 0-1 SEC) its first loss of the season, with a 5-2 victory over the Lady Bulldogs on Friday afternoon at the UT Varsity Courts in Knoxville, Tenn.
"We've had some tough matches in the opening weekend of SEC play in the past, so we are very pleased that we were able to go out there and get a win in an outdoor environment like we had today," UT co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "Mississippi State played us tough and made us work hard though. Fortunately, we were able to make some adjustments and get used to the wind a little bit as the match progressed. We've got some work to do between now and our match against Ole Miss on Sunday, but we are just happy to get this win and start off our SEC schedule on a good note."
For the fourth match in a row and sixth time this season, the Lady Vols were able to snatch the initial lead of the match, winning the doubles points with triumphs on the first and third courts. The Tennessee tandem of junior Caitlin Whoriskey and freshman Natalie Pluskota got the Orange and White off on the right foot, opening the match with an 8-3 victory over the Lady Bulldog combination of Natalia Mayuk and Olesya Tsigvintseva on center court. The win helped the pairing remain perfect on the season, as it has won all four of its matches at the No. 1 position since the two players joined forces against No. 29 Virginia on Feb. 8.
Just moments later, the UT duo of junior Zsófia Zubor and sophomore Jennifer Meredith secured the all-important doubles point for its squad with a solid, 8-5, win over Daniela Juskova and Radka Ferancova on court three. Mississippi State held off the sweep, however, with Martina Banikova and Elna de Villiers emerging victorious in a hard-fought battle at the second position in the lineup, downing senior Samantha Orlin and sophomore Maria Sorbello in a tiebreaker, 8-7 (6).
The Big Orange refused to bring the intensity down even a notch in singles play, sealing its fourth consecutive win with four quick victories. First to finish was Pluskota, who ran her record to a squad-best 16-8 with a dominant, 6-1, 6-1, win over Tsigvintseva at the No. 2 position in the lineup. Orlin then made it 3-0 in favor of the Lady Vols, cruising to her sixth consecutive win with a 6-0, 6-3 triumph over Ferancova at the third spot, before Meredith earned her first match-clinching win of the year, downing Mayuk in straight sets by an identical, 6-0, 6-3, score, on court five.
With the team victory in hand, Whoriskey, ranked as the 57th-best singles player in the nation, put the Orange and White up 5-0 with a center-court victory over Banikova, 6-3, 6-2. Mississippi State was finally able to get on the scoreboard, as it scratched out a pair of wins at the fourth and sixth singles positions. Valeriya Makarycheva scored the first win, as she snapped Zubor's six-match winning streak with a hard-fought, 6-3, 7-6 (3) win on the sixth court, while de Villiers held off sophomore Rosalía Alda, 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8), to close out the match.
The Lady Vols will next be in action at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, when No. 70 Ole Miss makes the trip to Rocky Top. Following that contest, UT will hit the road for the first time in over a month when it travels to the Palmetto State to square off with No. 29 South Carolina at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 13. From there, the Orange and White will move on to Gainesville, Fla., for a 1 p.m. showdown with No. 31 Florida two days later.
|1.||No. 57 Caitlin Whoriskey (UT)||def.||Martina Banikova (MSU)||6-3, 6-2|
|2.||Natalie Pluskota (UT)||def.||Olesya Tsigvintseva (MSU)||6-1, 6-1|
|3.||Samantha Orlin (UT)||def.||Radka Ferancova (MSU)||6-0, 6-3|
|4.||Elna de Villiers (MSU)||def.||Rosalía Alda (UT)||7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8)|
|5.||Jennifer Meredith (UT)||def.||Natalia Mayuk (MSU)||6-0, 6-3|
|6.||Valeriya Makarycheva (MSU)||def.||Zsófia Zubor (UT)||6-3, 7-6 (3)|
|1.||Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (Tennessee)||def.||Natalia Mayuk/Olesya Tsigvintseva (MSU)||8-3|
|2.||Martina Banikova/Elna de Villiers (MSU)||def.||Samantha Orlin/Maria Sorbello (UT)||8-7 (6)|
|3.||Jennifer Meredith/Zsófia Zubor (Tennessee)||def.||Daniela Juskova/Radka Ferancova (MSU)||8-5|
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (2,3,5*,1,6,4)