May 22, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - With a straight-set victory over the nation's No. 2-ranked doubles team, the University of Tennessee tandem of junior Caitlin Whoriskey and freshman Natalie Pluskota advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships and became the 13th and 14th All-Americans in program history. The 10th-ranked Lady Volunteer duo put forth one of its best efforts of the season to defeat the Notre Dame pairing of Kelcy Tefft and Kristy Frilling, 7-6 (4), 6-3, Friday afternoon at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
"This is a huge win and I could not be more proud of how Caitlin and Natalie played today," UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "One of their goals this entire season has been to become All-Americans. They worked extremely hard all year and it paid off today. Combined with our top-10 national ranking that came out earlier today, this win will really help to put Tennessee women's tennis on the map and lead to even greater things in years to come."
The victory avenged an 8-5 loss to Frilling and Tefft earlier this season in Knoxville on March 22. It also marked the highest-rated opponent that a UT doubles team has defeated since Whoriskey and fellow classmate Zsófia Zubor defeated the No. 2-ranked Clemson team of Federica van Adrichem and Ani Mijacika in the semifinals of the Riviera/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Women's All-American Tennis Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2007.
Having reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships, Whoriskey and Pluskota become the first Lady Vols to earn All-America honors since 2003 when Vilmarie Castellvi, Melissa Schaub and Tammy Encina snagged the accolades. They are the 13th and 14th All-Americans in the 33-year history of Tennessee women's tennis.
"We didn't really have much to lose going in," Whoriskey said. "They are ranked No. 2. We are No. 10. We played aggressive and we ended up with a victory. We played them earlier in the season and we watched them play yesterday. We were going for a high serve percentage, serve to their forehands, go after it and try to cross and play aggressive. That was our game plan.
"Natalie and I are extremely excited about becoming All-Americans," Whoriskey said. "We've worked so hard all season and it is very gratifying to see it pay off. We made it a goal to get to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, but now we want to keep going. Clemson is a very good team and we know that we have a tough match ahead of us tomorrow, but we can't wait to get back out on the courts."
The opening set of Friday's match set the tone for the day, as both teams fought tooth-and-nail to keep the score close. After the two squads traded the first 10 games of the match to reach a 5-5 deadlock, Notre Dame scored the first break of the day to earn a one-point advantage and the opportunity to serve for the set. The Lady Vols had other ideas, however, as they answered immediately with a break of their own, capped off by a terrific lob to the back-left corner of the court by Whoriskey, to tie the frame at six-all and send it to a tiebreaker to decide the outcome.
Once again, neither squad could gain much of an advantage early on, and they found themselves tied at 3-3 at the changeover. Whoriskey and Pluskota must have decided that they had seen enough though, as they rattled off three quick points to take a commanding 6-3 lead. Although the Fighting Irish got one of the points back, an overhead smash by Whoriskey proved powerful enough to give her team its tiebreak-winning seventh score.
The Lady Vols kept their momentum going in the early portions of the second set, using a quick break of Tefft's serve to jump out to a 2-0 lead. After Frilling and Whoriskey held serve, Tefft took to the service line and looked as if she would be broken once again. She was able to fight off a pair of UT break point opportunities though, to keep the score within one at 3-2 in favor of the Big Orange.
The two squads continued the back-and-forth battle, trading the next three games to give Tennessee a chance to finish off the match with Tefft serving. Once again, the Lady Vols took advantage of the Notre Dame senior's serve, breaking her for the third time on the day to win the match, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
With the win, Whoriskey and Pluskota improve to 14-6 on the season, with 11 of those victories coming against nationally-ranked opponents. They advance to face the 34th-rated Clemson combo of Josipa Bek and Ina Hadsziselimovic at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday. A link to live video of tomorrow's doubles contest can be found at www.UTLadyVols.com.
Round of 16 - Friday
No. 10 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. No. 2 Kristy Frilling/Kelcy Tefft (Notre Dame) - 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
Quarterfinals - Saturday
No. 10 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) vs. No. 34 Josipa Bek/Ina Hadsziselimovic (Clemson) - 11 a.m. ET