May 21, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Despite a late change in opponents, the 10th-ranked Lady Volunteer doubles pairing of junior Caitlin Whoriskey and freshman Natalie Pluskota was able to advance to the Round of 16 at the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships with a 6-4, 6-3, triumph over the No. 38-rated Stanford duo of Carolyn McVeigh and Jessica Nguyen Thursday afternoon at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
The Cardinal combo was a late entrant into the competition when the 34th-ranked California team of Marina Cossou and Claire Ilcinkas was scratched early Thursday afternoon. It made no difference to Whoriskey and Pluskota though, as they earned just the seventh NCAA doubles win in the history of Lady Vol tennis. The duo becomes the second UT pairing to advance to the Round of 16 in the past three seasons, as Whoriskey and fellow classmate Zsófia Zubor also accomplished the feat in 2007.
Although the Tennessee tandem was only able to manage one break in the first set against McVeigh and Nguyen, it proved to be just enough as Whoriskey and Pluskota held serve on all five of their opportunities en route to winning the opening frame, 6-4. With the score tied at 3-3, the Big Orange was able to break McVeigh to take a one-point advantage. The Lady Vols almost gave it right back though, as they needed a Whoriskey ace to fight off a chance at break point by Stanford. Nguyen and Pluskota made the most of their serving opportunities in the next two games to account for the final score of 6-4.
In stark contrast to the opening set, the second frame featured a total of three service breaks. Fortunately for fans of the Orange and White, it was the Cardinal which dropped two of the three. UT struck first, scoring a 1-0 lead when Whoriskey smashed a forehand winner down the left-side of the court to break McVeigh once again. She followed that up by easily holding her own serve to give the Lady Vols a quick 2-0 advantage.
The two squads then traded the next four games to put the score at 4-2 with Nguyen serving. It looked like Stanford would cut its lead to just a single score once again when it jumped ahead 40-15, but Whoriskey and Pluskota had other ideas. After fighting back to earn a number of break-point opportunities, they were finally able to win the point on their third chance when a cross-court forehand by Nguyen landed just long.
That point would loom large just moments later when the Cardinal earned its first break of the day, which would have tied the set at 4-4. Instead Nguyen and McVeigh remained two scores back and were defeated shortly thereafter. With McVeigh at the service line, UT raced out to a 40-0 lead but could not convert on its first three chances to end the match. The fourth time would be the charm, however, as Pluskota volleyed a shot past Nguyen to seal the deal, 6-3.
With the win, Whoriskey and Pluskota improve to 13-6 on the season, with 10 of those victories coming against nationally-ranked opponents. They advance to face the No. 2-ranked and second-seeded Notre Dame pairing of Kristy Frilling and Kelcy Tefft. The two squads squared off earlier this season in Knoxville with the Fighting Irish duo claiming an 8-5 triumph on March 22.
Match times for Friday have yet to be determined but will be posted at www.AggieAthletics.com when available. Doubles contests will not be played before 3 p.m. ET. A link to live video of Friday's doubles contest can be found at www.UTLadyVols.com.
Round of 32 - Thursday
No. 10 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. No. 38 Carolyn McVeigh/Jessica Nguyen (Stanford) - 6-4, 6-3
Round of 16 - Friday
No. 10 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) vs. No. 2 Kristy Frilling/Kelcy Tefft (Notre Dame)