April 6, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Despite finishing with just two tandems in doubles and four players in singles, the 22nd-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team overcame injuries and picked up its second consecutive win, defeating Auburn, 4-3, Friday at Barksdale Stadium.
It was the same old story, but with a different result.
"I'm real proud of the girls," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "We've faced a lot of adversity in the last few weeks. To win a conference match already giving away a point is really tough to do. Our veteran kids came out and did a good job. Jesse did a good job in doubles, helping Brynn pull that out. That gave us the momentum to win."
With Caitlyn Williams out of both lineups, the Lady Vols defaulted the third spot in doubles and the sixth position in singles to Auburn (8-10, 3-6 SEC).
But the Lady Vols wouldn't let the match be scripted out. It was the seventh time Tennessee played with an incomplete singles lineup, but the first time the Lady Vols pulled out a win.
The Lady Vols (13-9, 4-5 SEC) still managed to pull out the doubles point for the 19th time in 22 matches to make it a 1-1 tie heading into singles play.
After Joanna Henderson was forced to retire in the opening set (ankle), however, Tennessee fell behind 2-1.
"Brynn did a great job today, just as Natalie and Kata did," Patrick said. "Those three have done an awesome job. To play under the circumstances that we are is not easy. Our back is against the wall. We needed to try to get this win and they did it. They've done everything they can do."
Pluskota and Szekely, who cruised in doubles, 8-2, to improve to 13-1 (6-0) together, each won in singles by a 6-1, 6-3 margin back-to-back to give Tennessee a 3-2 lead.
Pluskota's victory over No. 118 Jen Pfeifler was her third consecutive win, moving to 3-1 in SEC play. With her last career home match looming Sunday vs. No. 11 Alabama, she's savoring the moment.
"Recently, it's starting to hit me a lot more than it has in the past," Pluskota said. "I think for a while I just didn't want to believe it and now it's becoming more of a reality. It's unfortunate but at the same time it's great. I've had a great time at UT and it's not over yet. We're going to have a great match Sunday and keep moving forward."
Boren led 5-1 in her first set before Emily Flickinger rallied to tie it at 5. Boren went on to win eight of the next 10 games, taking the match 7-5, 6-2.
It marked the second straight match in which she's provided the clinching point as she set a career-high with her seventh consecutive win.
Boren also helped clinch the doubles point for the 11th time this season. Teaming with Grace, the duo reeled off four of their last five games to knock off No. 36 Paulina Schippers and Pfeifler.
After Boren's win put Tennessee ahead 4-2, Grace found herself on the losing end of a three-set loss, falling 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (8) to Schippers.
But in the end, the 4-3 result was what the Lady Vols as a whole strived for.
"It's always good to win," Pluskota said. "It takes everybody to be on the same page to come up with four points. It's always good to win and more importantly, we came out with a team win today which always feels really good."
The Lady Vols have won consecutive matches for the first time since winning their last four in the month of February. It was also Tennessee's 21st consecutive win over Auburn, its longest active streak against any opponent.
"It's been up and down," Pluskota said. "I've been battling injuries and things like that. We've done the best we can to have a really good season. We've done great thus far and we still have a little ways to go. Hopefully, it will keep looking up from this point forward."
They'll look to continue to build momentum on Easter Sunday, hosting No. 11 Alabama at 1 p.m. Pluskota, a two-time All-American and All-SEC selection, will be honored prior to her final home match as part of Senior Day.
#22 Tennessee 4, #63 Auburn 3
1. #29 Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. #118 Jen Pfeifler (AU) 6-1, 6-3
2. #28 Brynn Boren (UT) def. Emily Flickinger (AU) 7-5, 6-2
3. #49 Kata Szekely (UT) def. Plamena Kurteva (AU) 6-1, 6-3
4. Jackie Kasler (AU) def. Joanna Henderson (UT) 5-0, ret.
5. Paulina Schippers (AU) def. Jesse Grace (UT) 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (8)
6. Auburn by default
1. #18 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (UT) def. Emily Flickinger/Jackie Kasler (AU) 8-2
2. Brynn Boren/Jesse Grace (UT) def. #36 Jen Pfeifler/Paulina Schippers (AU) 8-4
3. Auburn by default
Order of finish: Doubles (3, 1, 2); Singles (6, 4, 1, 3, 2, 5)
Records: Tennessee (13-9, 4-5 SEC), Auburn (8-10, 3-6 SEC)