March 13, 2004
The 36th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team concluded its trip to the Hawaiian Islands with a 6-1 victory over No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday. With the win, UT improves to 9-8 in dual matches this season, while the Fighting Irish drop to 7-4.
"Our team gained some great experience during this trip," UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "We spent some valuable time playing and practicing outside, which is important because all of our remaining matches will most likely be played outdoors. Getting a win against Notre Dame today is a strong way to finish the trip, and gives us some confidence heading into the remainder of the season."
The match started in exciting fashion, as two of the three doubles contests were decided in tiebreakers. The duo of sophomore Sabita Maharaj (Gainesville, Fla.) and junior Ashley Robards (Henderson, Ky.) gave UT the early advantage by claiming an 8-3 triumph over Lauren Connelly and Alicia Salas at No. 2 doubles. Notre Dame, however, bounced back when Sarah Jane Connelly and Kristina Stastny edged out juniors Majen Immink (Kent, U.K.) and Breanna Kray (Surrey, B.C., Canada) at the No. 3 spot by a score of 9-8(4).
With the doubles point on the line, the Lady Vol pair of senior Tammy Encina (Miami Beach, Fla.) and sophomore Melissa Schaub (Lexington, Ohio) posted a 9-8(5) victory over 37th-ranked twins Catrina and Christian Thompson at the No. 1 position, giving the Big Orange a 1-0 advantage in the match.
Tennessee was able to carry the momentum it gained from dramatic victory in doubles over to the singles portion of the contest, as UT claimed five of the six solo matches. To start things off, freshman Victoria Jones (Tyne & Wear, U.K.) registered a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Sarah Jane Connelly at No. 6 singles. Jones, who has won five straight matches, currently boasts a 16-9 singles record this year.
UT grabbed a 3-0 advantage in the contest when Immink claimed a 7-5, 6-2 decision over Stastny at the No. 5 spot. Much like her British counterpart Jones, Immink has been on a tear as of late, winning seven matches in a row to improve her singles mark to 16-6 on the season.
Maharaj then clinched the match for Tennessee when she finished off Christian Thompson by a count of 6-1, 6-3 at the No. 2 position. The 73rd-ranked sophomore now boasts a singles record of 20-9 this season, claiming six of her last seven matches.
With the contest already in hand, freshman Blakeley Griffith (Middleburg, Va.) provided another win for the Orange and White, downing Lauren Connelly, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 4 singles. The victory bolsters Griffith's record to 25-7 in her first season of collegiate tennis.
At the No. 1 position, ND posted its lone singles victory on the day, as 13th-ranked Salas edged out 24th-ranked Encina by a score of 6-4, 4-6, (10-7). The Lady Vols quickly bounced back, however, as Robards defeated 84th-ranked Catrina Thompson, 4-6, 6-2, (10-6), at the No. 3 spot, making the final score 6-1 in favor of UT.
Tennessee now holds an 11-4 advantage over Notre Dame in the all-time series between the two squads, and has won five in a row against the Irish.
The Lady Vols, who have been repeatedly forced to juggle their lineup this year, have now won four of their last five matches. Earlier this season, several starters, including Encina, Immink and Robards, all missed playing time due to injury.
After returning from the Aloha State, Tennessee continues a string of six matches in 12 days, as it plays host to 10th-ranked Texas on Wed., March 17, 33rd-ranked Mississippi on Fri., March 19 and Mississippi State on Sun., March 21.