March 25, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With just four available players in singles, the 12th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team suffered its third consecutive defeat Sunday at Barksdale Stadium, falling 4-3 to No. 37 Arkansas (10-7, 2-4 SEC).
Already battling multiple injuries, the Lady Vols (11-8, 2-4 SEC) planned to be in better shape with the return of sophomore Brynn Boren, who had missed the previous two matches.
But during doubles, Boren's partner, Sarah Toti, went down with a knee injury and was unable to return, leaving the Lady Vols with a four-player singles lineup.
"It's been a really tough year," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "Our kids are working really hard, but we've just been snake-bit with a bunch of reoccurring injuries that have happened. In our sport, we don't have that much depth to start with. When you start to get some of your main players hurt, there's really nowhere to go."
After Boren and Toti's doubles match - tied at four at the time - was retired, Tennessee was able to lock up courts one and three to secure the doubles point. Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely remained undefeated in dual-match play (3-0), taking down No. 75 Claudine Paulson and Laurie Gingras, 8-3, to even the doubles slate.
With the victory, Pluskota is just one away from becoming the eighth player in school history to register 100 career doubles wins. The Newnan, Ga., native is 99-32 since arriving in 2008.
For the second consecutive match, the doubles point would be decided on court three. With neither team leading by more than one point up to a 6-all tie, the pressure was on.
The tandem took the next two games, marking the 17th time in 19 matches that Tennessee has won the doubles point. The lead, however, wouldn't last more than a few seconds.
With Tennessee defaulting at the bottom two positions, Arkansas stormed ahead to take a 2-1 lead.
Tennessee took opening sets on the top two courts, before the Razorbacks added to their lead with Gingras winning 6-2, 6-2 over Grace on court four.
Szekely moved to 7-1 from the No. 2 position in 2012 with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Paulson, snapping a two-match skid and bringing the Lady Vols within 3-2.
But Tennessee's injury report proved to be too much to overcome.
Shortly after Szekely's 19th win of the season, Henderson lost 6-2, 6-2 to Roy, clinching the win for Arkansas.
Despite the loss, Boren continued to fight on court one. Returning from illness, Boren cruised to a 6-1 first-set score.
The fatigue set in during the second set as she found herself trailing 4-2. But the Laguna Niguel, Calif., native battled back, reeling off four straight games to win in straight sets over Carbone 6-1, 6-4.
Boren's win marked her 20th of the season - a team-high - and the 50th of her career.
Tennessee returns to action Friday at Vanderbilt for a 5 p.m. ET start, and ends the weekend Sunday at Kentucky (Noon ET).
"It's a lot of unlucky little things that have all happened at the same time," Patrick said. "I feel bad for them. The team has worked so hard. They did some great things at the beginning of the year and we had some really great expectations for what we were going to do. It's hard to go out there now, play with half of a team and trying to compete with some of the players in the country isn't easy."
#37 Arkansas 4, #12 Tennessee 3
1. Brynn Boren (UT) def. Emily Carbone (ARK) 6-1, 6-4
2. Kata Szekely (UT) def. Claudine Paulson (ARK) 6-2, 6-2
3. Stephanie Roy (ARK) def. Joanna Henderson (UT) 6-2, 6-2
4. Laurie Gingras (ARK) def. Jesse Grace (UT) 6-2, 6-2
5. Arkansas wins by default
6. Arkansas wins by default
1. #21 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (UT) def. #75 Claudine Paulson/Laurie Gingras (ARK) 8-3
2. Stephanie Roy/Emily Carbone (ARK) def. Brynn Boren/Sarah Toti (UT) 4-4, ret.
3. Joanna Henderson/Jesse Grace (UT) def. Kate Lukomskaya/Catherine Parenteau (ARK) 8-6
Order of finish: Doubles (2, 1, 3); Singles (5, 6, 4, 2, 3, 1)
Records: Tennessee (11-8, 2-4 SEC), Arkansas (10-7, 2-4 SEC)