April 12, 2003
Although No. 6 Georgia came into Saturday's matchup with the ninth-rated University of Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team holding a 31-3 edge in the all-time series, UT gave the Bulldogs some Orange Crush by winning every match for a 7-0 triumph in the final regular season contest for both squads. With the victory, the Lady Vols improved to 19-5 and 9-2 in the conference, assuring themselves of a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. Georgia, who is also guaranteed a bye in the opening round of the tourney, dropped to 14-3 and 9-2 in the SEC with the loss.
"We knew coming in that we had a good chance to win this one," said UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick. "Everything went our way, from the great weather to the outstanding fan support. Our team knew the importance of this match. We got a lot of momentum winning the doubles point and that carried over into the singles. This is a great way to head into the SEC Tournament."
Tennessee took the bite out of the 'Dogs in the doubles, sweeping all three matches. UT's first victory came at three doubles, where senior Crystal Cleveland and freshman Sabita Maharaj moved to 12-1 on the year with an 8-5 victory over junior Alexandra Smith and rookie Douglas Wink. The win also gave Cleveland her 30th of the season.
The Big Orange's fifth-rated tandem of senior Vilmarie Castellvi and freshman Melissa Schaub provided the clincher for the sixth time this year. The pair upset the nation's No. 2-ranked duo in junior Agata Cioroch and senior Lori Grey, 8-4, to improve to 24-6 this season and 17-5 at the top slot. It was the second time this year that Castellvi and Schaub defeated a doubles team ranked No. 2. The first was Duke's Julie DeRoo and Amanda Johnson on March 23.
The final doubles contest on court two between Lady Vol junior Tammy Encina and sophomore Majen Immink and UGA seniors Anne Nguyen and Tina Hojnik went into a tiebreaker. Encina and Immink, the nation's 41st-rated combo, came into the match riding a two-match losing skid, but the pair responded with a 7-2 victory in the breaker. Encina and Immink ran their record to 14-3 overall and 13-3 at the No. 2 position with the win.
UT's first victory in singles came at the top of the lineup, where the marquee matchup of the contest featured the nation's Nos. 1 and 2 players in Castellvi and Cioroch. The match was on serve in the first set, 4-3, with Cioroch serving before her top-ranked opponent caught fire. Castellvi went on to the win the next eight games for a dominating 6-3, 6-0 victory. She improved to 37-4 overall and 22-1 at the No. 1 singles slot. Castellvi also finished the regular season with an undefeated record in SEC play at 10-0 and extended her winning streak to a team-best 16 matches.
Castellvi's classmate, 59th-rated Cleveland, gave the Big Orange a 3-0 lead with a lopsided victory of her own at three singles over Grey. Cleveland won nine straight games before a slight hiccup in the second set gave Grey two consecutive games. Still leading, 3-2, in the second frame, Cleveland closed out the match by claiming the next three games for a 6-0, 6-2 triumph. The Delray Beach, Fla., native improved to 30-8 with the win and 21-3 in dual matches. Like Castellvi, she finished the regular season with an unblemished record in league action at 11-0. By notching her 30th win, Cleveland also registered the second season of her career with at least 30 victories in both singles and doubles play.
Needing only one more point for the victory, Encina and Maharaj were both on verge of winning their matches at courts two and five. It ended up being the 82nd-tabbed Encina who provided UT with the clinching point, as she disposed of No. 57 Nguyen in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, much to the delight of her jubilant teammates who rushed the court to congratulate her afterwards. The win gave Encina her 20th victory of the year, upping her overall mark to 20-14 and 12-9 in dual matches.
Moments later, Maharaj downed freshman Evgenia Subbotina, 6-3, 6-3, to up her record to 14-12 and 8-7 in duals. After struggling early in the dual match season, Maharaj has come on strong for UT by winning seven of her last 10 matchups.
Schaub sweetened the deal even more for the Lady Vols when she rebounded from a 6-1 setback in the first set at the No. 4 slot over 60th-ranked Hojnik. The Lexington, Ohio, native won the second frame in a tiebreaker, 9-7, and then took the third set super tiebreaker by a 10-8 count. Schaub actually trailed in the super breaker, 8-5, before winning the next five rallies for her first career victory over a ranked opponent. With the win, she improved to 22-14 and 16-7 in dual match competition.
Tennessee sophomore Ashley Robards added the final layer of icing on the Lady Vols' cake with a three-set triumph at No. 6 singles. Robards claimed the first set, 7-5, despite trailing by a 4-1 score in the early goings. After falling in the second frame, 7-5, a super tiebreaker was played for the decisive set. Both players traded points back and forth, but Robards eventually found herself with several match points. The fifth time proved to be the charm for Robards, as she won by a 14-12 count, improving to 18-12 and 13-5 in duals.
The Lady Vols will host the SEC Tournament next week on April 17-20. Pairings and match times for the tourney will be announced when Auburn and Alabama complete the SEC's final regular season match of the year tomorrow. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. CDT.
Final Score: #9 Tennessee (19-5, 9-2 SEC) 7, #6 Georgia (14-3, 9-2 SEC) 0