April 12, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The13th-ranked University of Tennessee women's tennis team (15-4, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) has earned the right to play for the first SEC regular season championship in school history next weekend after picking up a hard-fought 5-2 victory over No. 17 Vanderbilt (9-6, 5-4) on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the Goodfriend Tennis Center in Knoxville. The Lady Volunteers will host No. 2 Georgia at Noon on Saturday, April 18, for a share of the league title and the right to the No. 1 seed at the SEC Tournament.
"This was a great win for our team," UT Co-Head Coach Mike Patrick said. "I could not be more proud of how hard we fought. We played about as well as we have played all year in doubles, but I knew Vanderbilt would come out and compete hard in singles. Fortunately, we were able to hold on and pick up a couple of good wins there at the end to close it out. I was especially proud of Maria (Sorbello). She did a fantastic job of battling all the way to the end against an experienced opponent in a high-pressure match.
"It doesn't really get any better than having the opportunity to play for an SEC title on your home court," Patrick said. "Georgia is a great team though and is ranked No. 2 in the country for a reason. We will definitely have our hands full, but hopefully we can get a great crowd out to the match and take advantage of our home-court advantage."
The Big Orange came out swinging in doubles play, grabbing the momentum early and holding on to sweep all three contests for the fourth time in the last five matches. Since dropping the first doubles contest in a 4-3 loss at No. 23 Arkansas on March 27, UT has won 16 of its last 17 matches in tandem play.
The Lady Vol pairing of junior Zsófia Zubor and sophomore Rosalía Alda got things started with a dominant effort on court two, cruising to an 8-0 sweep over the Commodore combination of Catherine Newman and Chelsea Preeg. The victory increased the duo's winning streak to a stellar 12 matches, as it has won every contest it has played since dropping its first match of the season. Alda and Zubor are a perfect 8-0 in SEC play and 10-0 in dual-match action.
The point-clinching match then came at the third position in the lineup where sophomores Jennifer Meredith and Maria Sorbello gave the Orange and White the first tally on the scoreboard with an identical, 8-0, triumph, as they paired up to defeat sisters Courtney and Keilly Ulery. Although somewhat overshadowed by the top two teams on the squad, Meredith and Sorbello have won all four of their matches since joining forces against Alabama on April 3.
Finishing up the doubles sweep on center court was the Tennessee tandem of junior Caitlin Whoriskey and freshman Natalie Pluskota. The nation's 39th-ranked doubles pairing fell behind early against the No. 49-rated Vanderbilt team of Heather Steinbauer and Jackie Wu, but battled back, winning the final five points of the match en route to an 8-3 triumph. The win marked Whoriskey and Pluskota's 10th of the season and seventh over a ranked opponent.
The Lady Vols continued their strong play early in singles, scoring first-set victories on four of the six courts. About halfway through the singles portion of the contest, however, Vanderbilt began to find its rhythm as it bounced back with wins in the second frame in three of those matches. The lone member of the UT roster to finish out her match in straight sets was the 32nd-ranked Whoriskey who defeated No. 62 Newman, 6-0, 6-2, on center court.
After that, things got a little tougher for the Big Orange, as four of the remaining five matches went the distance to three sets. After opening up with a 6-1 victory in her first frame, Alda dropped the second set to Steinbauer, 3-6. The Round Rock, Texas, native was undeterred though and closed out the match, 6-2, in the final frame to give UT a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard. The win marked Alda's sixth straight and moved her record at the No. 5 position in the lineup to a perfect 6-0.
Just moments later, Vanderbilt finally got on the board on court four where Preeg became the first SEC opponent to defeat Meredith this season, snapping her 13-match winning streak with a 7-5, 6-2, triumph. The Big Orange had an immediate answer though, as Sorbello clinched her second team win of the season, downing Courtney Ulery, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. The Mackay, Australia, product has been flawless this spring, winning all six of her singles contests.
"After I lost the second set, I just made up my mind that I was going to give it everything I had, run down every ball and make her make a mistake," Sorbello said. "Every ball I hit in the second set was straight into her strike range, so I made an adjustment and tried to get it up over her head and hit a heavier ball. Once I started to do that, I was able to regain control of the match.
"We have an amazing opportunity against Georgia next week," she said. "For us to have a chance to win a share of the SEC title is absolutely amazing. We've worked so hard this year to get to this point. Hopefully, we can go out there and win it for Sam in her last home match."
With the outcome of the match already decided, the Commodores earned their second point of the day when the 52nd-ranked Wu outlasted Pluskota on court two, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Senior Samantha Orlin finished off the match on a high note for UT, engineering a three-set, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, triumph over Keilly Ulery at the No. 3 slot. Orlin, who has won five straight matches, is now tied with Meredith for the team lead with 24 singles wins
Tennessee will close out the regular season next Saturday when No. 2 Georgia makes the trip to Rocky Top. The Bulldogs have already clinched a share of the SEC title, but the Big Orange will look to join them on the podium as the two squads will square off at Noon at the Goodfriend Tennis Center in Knoxville. The Lady Vols will honor their lone senior, Samantha Orlin in a pre-match ceremony and live scoring will be available at www.UTLadyVols.com.
|1.||No. 32 Caitlin Whoriskey (UT)||def.||No. 62 Catherine Newman (VU)||6-0, 6-2|
|2.||No. 52 Jackie Wu (VU)||def.||Natalie Pluskota (UT)||6-3, 3-6, 6-2|
|3.||Samantha Orlin (UT)||def.||Keilly Ulery (VU)||6-4, 2-6, 6-4|
|4.||Chelsea Preeg (VU)||def.||Jennifer Meredith (UT)||7-5, 6-2|
|5.||Rosalía Alda (UT)||def.||Heather Steinbauer (VU)||6-1, 3-6, 6-2|
|6.||Maria Sorbello (UT)||def.||Courtney Ulery (VU)||6-4, 1-6, 6-2|
|1.||No. 39 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT)||def.||No. 49 Heather Steinbauer/Jackie Wu (VU)||8-3|
|2.||Rosalía Alda/Zsófia Zubor (UT)||def.||Catherine Newman/Chelsea Preeg (VU)||8-0|
|3.||Maria Sorbello/Jennifer Meredith (UT)||def.||Courtney Ulery/Keilly Ulery (VU)||8-0|
Order of Finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (1,5,4,6*,2,3)