March 29, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season, the 13th-ranked University of Tennessee women's tennis team (11-4, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) bounced back in dramatic fashion, shutting out No. 21 LSU (11-6, 1-4 SEC), 7-0, Sunday afternoon at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center in Knoxville, Tenn. Not only did the Lady Volunteers win all 10 matches on the afternoon, but they did it without dropping even a single set.
The 7-0 sweep is UT's third of the season and first in league play. The Big Orange previously accomplished the feat against then-No. 44 Indiana on Feb. 20 and the University of Central Florida on March 20. The last time Tennessee downed an SEC opponent by a 7-0 score was against Alabama on March 30, 2008.
"Our team played lights out today," UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "The main difference between today and our last couple of matches was that we just came out relaxed and on a mission to win. We've been putting too much pressure on ourselves to be successful rather than just going out there, having fun and putting the pressure on the other team.
"Hopefully, this will get our confidence up as we head into our final road trip of the season," Hahn-Patrick said. "There have been so many upsets in the conference this year that every match we have left is important. Alabama and Auburn are always two very well-coached teams and are always tough at home. We're looking forward to the challenge though."
For the fifth time this season, the Orange and White earned a sweep of all three doubles contests to jump out to the early advantage. The duo of senior Samantha Orlin and sophomore Maria Sorbello got UT off to a good start, finishing its match against the LSU combo of Nicole Kantor and Staten Spencer by scoring four consecutive points to claim an 8-4 victory at the third position in the lineup.
All eyes then turned to center court where a pair of nationally-ranked doubles teams were squaring off in the 32nd-rated Tennessee tandem of junior Caitlin Whoriskey and freshman Natalie Pluskota and the No. 14 Tiger team of Megan Falcon and Mykala Hedberg. Leading 6-4 when the match on court three came to an end, the Lady Vols continued to apply the pressure, scoring once more to take a commanding, 7-4, advantage. Although Falcon and Hedberg got one of the points back to move within two, Whoriskey and Pluskota finished off the contest just moments later, handing the LSU duo just its fourth loss of the season and first in dual-match play. The UT pairing is now 7-3 on the season, including four triumphs over ranked opponents.
With the outcome of the doubles point already decided, all that was remaining was a victory on court two to complete the sweep, and the Big Orange pairing of junior Zsófia Zubor and sophomore Rosalía Alda took care of that, as it outlasted the LSU duo of Hannah Robinson and Whitney Wolf, 8-6. UT has now won the doubles point in 11 of its 15 matches this year, including sweeps in victories over Illinois, Purdue, Indiana and South Carolina.
The Orange and White kept pouring it on in singles play, starting with an impressive win by Orlin on court three. The Miami, Fla., product cruised to a 6-1 victory in the opening set but struggled to find her rhythm in the second frame, falling behind 4-1. She refused to give in though, winning the next five points of the contest to emerge victorious and put UT up 2-0 on the scoreboard. With the win, Orlin became the second Lady Vol to reach the 20-win mark this season, joining sophomore Jennifer Meredith.
Once again, the attention then turned to center court, as Whoriskey was nearing a victory over Falcon, the nation's 15th-ranked singles player. The native of East Sandwich, Mass., had simply dominated Falcon through the first set-and-a-half, taking a 4-1 advantage in the second frame after winning the first by a score of 6-2. Although Falcon fought back to move within one at 5-4, Whoriskey was able to use her overpowering serve to finish off the match, winning, 6-2, 6-4, to make it a three-score UT advantage. The win marked Whoriskey's seventh of the season over a ranked opponent and 14th of her career. The 15th-rated Falcon also stands as the highest ranked opponent Whoriskey has defeated during her career, surpassing a win over then-No. 24 Fani Chifchieva of Auburn on March 27, 2008. The loss was just Falcon's second of the spring and sixth of the entire season.
"I've been struggling a little bit as of late, so I just made up my mind that I was not going to lose today and went out there with a win-at-all-costs mentality," Whoriskey said. "If I was going to lose, somebody was going to have to peel me off the court. My main goal was to be as aggressive as possible. I wanted to come in to the net more often and use my footwork to put pressure on her. She is a great player and I knew she wasn't going to miss from the baseline, so I wanted to make her work for every point she was going to get."
The opportunity to seal the win then fell to Pluskota on court two, where she was leading by a set over Hedberg. The Newnan, Ga., native came through in the clutch, tallying her squad-best fourth match-clinching triumph, as she took out her opponent, 6-3, 6-0. Even with the win already in hand, Meredith kept the momentum going for the Big Orange, scoring a 6-3, 6-4, triumph over Kantor at the fourth slot in the lineup. The 5-3 sophomore from Marietta, Ga., has now won 10 consecutive singles matches and leads the team with a 21-9 overall record, including a 12-3 dual-match record and perfect 6-0 mark in SEC play. A pair of Lady Vol sophomores finished off the sweep, as Alda took out Robinson, 6-1, 6-1, on court five and Sorbello defeated Spencer, 6-2, 6-3, at the sixth and final position.
The Orange and White will take its final road trip of the season this weekend when it travels to the Yellowhammer State to take on SEC Western Division foes No. 17 Alabama and 31st-ranked Auburn. UT will square off with the Crimson Tide at 4 p.m. ET in Tuscaloosa on Friday, April 3, before making a quick jaunt to Auburn to face the 31st-ranked Tigers just two days later.
|1. No. 48 Caitlin Whoriskey (UT) def. No. 15 Megan Falcon (LSU)||6-2, 6-4|
|2. Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. Mykala Hedberg (LSU)||6-3, 6-0|
|3. Samantha Orlin (UT) def. Whitney Wolf (LSU)||6-1, 6-4|
|4. Jennifer Meredith (UT) def. Nicole Kantor (LSU)||6-3, 6-4|
|5. Rosalía Alda (UT) def. Hannah Robinson (LSU)||6-1, 6-1|
|6. Maria Sorbello (UT) def. Staten Spencer (LSU)||6-2, 6-3|
|1. No. 32 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. No. 14 Megan Falcon/Mykala Hedberg (LSU)||8-5|
|2. Rosalía Alda/Zsófia Zubor (UT) def. Hannah Robinson/Whitney Wolf (LSU)||8-6|
|3. Maria Sorbello/Samantha Orlin (UT) def. Nicole Kantor/Staten Spencer (LSU)||8-4|
|Order of Finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (3,1,2*,4,5,6)|