March 23, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. - The 12th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team (11-7, 2-3) lost consecutive matches for just the second time this season, dropping a 5-2 decision to No. 49 LSU (10-6, 3-2) on Friday at Robinson Stadium.
Tennessee's two-match losing streak mirrors its only other skid this season, when the Lady Vols lost their first two matches of the season with a shortened lineup. Battling injuries, Tennessee was unable to play with six players in its singles lineup for the second consecutive match.
"We're certainly missing our injured players," Tennessee co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "There's no secret about that. We have to continue to get better. The ones that were out there are showing improvement. They're continuing to improve and working hard. Everyone is moving up at least two (spots) and we're just a little off. We have to get better. LSU fought hard and they competed well."
But health couldn't prevent Tennessee from taking an early 1-0 lead.
Doubles play was once again the strong suit for the Lady Vols, winning the point for the 16th time in 18 matches.
For the second straight contest, Tennessee coupled Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely, Sarah Toti and Jesse Grace, and Joanna Henderson and Caitlyn Williams together in the absence of Brynn Boren (illness).
And for the second straight contest, it worked.
Pluskota and Szekely, ranked 21st together, improved to 9-1 as a duo with an 8-4 win over Keri Frankenberger and Whitney Wolf.
While it moved Pluskota within two wins of 100 for her career, it also gave Szekely her fifth consecutive win this season.
Meanwhile, Toti and Grace found themselves on the losing end of an 8-6 decision against Olivia Howlett and Yvette Vlaar, leaving the doubles point for the final court to decide for just the fifth time this season.
Henderson and Williams saw their 7-4 lead close to 7-6, before breaking serve to win, 8-6, over Kaitlin Burns and Ariel Morton. The Lady Vols are 4-1 when the doubles point comes down to the last court.
From there, the Lady Tigers took advantage of the shift in Tennessee's lineup.
After tying the score via a sixth-court default, LSU won in straight sets on courts two, five and one with Williams, Grace and Szekely suffering defeats, respectively. The run allowed the Lady Tigers to take a 4-1 lead and clinch the win.
LSU's run continued as Joanna Henderson, who was UT's lone winner across the board in first sets, dropped a three-set tiebreaker to Frankenberger 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (5).
Conversely, Toti used a pair of tiebreakers to come back and defeat Burns 2-6, 7-6 (0), 1-0 (8). The Las Vegas, Nev., native's victory capped Friday's scoring at 5-2.
"Sarah is capable," Patrick said. "She has the tools to play at the higher level. The other day, she pressed a lot. I think that's what a lot of them do. They move up, and all of a sudden they think they have to play way better. Actually, they just need to do what they always do and not lose focus at all. She did that today. That's how she's going to get better."
Tennessee has yet to lose consecutive SEC matches this season, and returns home to take on No. 37 Arkansas on Sunday at 1 p.m. See below for more details.
#49 LSU 5, #12 Tennessee 2
1. Whitney Wolf (LSU) def. #37 Kata Szekely (UT) 6-4, 6-3
2. Olivia Howlett (LSU) def. Caitlyn Williams (UT) 6-2, 6-2
3. Sarah Toti (UT) def. Kaitlin Burns (LSU) 2-6, 7-6 (0), 1-0 (8)
4. Keri Frankenberger (LSU) def. Joanna Henderson (UT) 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (5)
5. Ebie Wilson (LSU) def. Jesse Grace (UT) 6-3, 6-2
6. Yvette Vlaar (LSU) by forfeit
1. #21 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (UT) def. Keri Frankenberger/Whitney Wolf (LSU) 8-4
2. Olivia Howlett/Yvette Vlaar (LSU) def. Sarah Toti/Jesse Grace (UT) 8-6
3. Joanna Henderson/Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. Kaitlin Burns/Ariel Morton (LSU) 8-6
Order of finish: Doubles (1, 2, 3); Singles (6, 2, 5, 1, 4, 3)
Records: Tennessee (11-7, 2-3 SEC), LSU (10-6, 3-2 SEC)
LADY VOLS HOST ARKANSAS, USTA CAMPUS KIDS' DAY ON SUNDAY
In concurrence with Sunday's home match against Arkansas, the Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team will host Campus Kids' Day, the USTA's premier player development program.
Designed to expose current and aspiring junior players to college tennis, Campus Kids' Day will provide local children the opportunity to view a pair of ranked SEC teams in No. 12 Tennessee and No. 37 Arkansas.
The first 50 kids (12 and under) will receive with a Tennessee Tennis goodie bag and water bottle, along with free pizza and refreshments.
Additionally, kid-friendly activities such as face painting, poster making and chalk art will be available throughout the day for enjoyment.
All fans will receive free admission for the March 25 match, which begins at 1 p.m. The first 125 fans will receive a free Tennessee Lady Vol seat cushion.