May 29, 2010
By Donnie Conley, Media Relations Student Assistant
ATHENS, Ga. - Caitlin Whoriskey and Natalie Pluskota moved on to the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships for the second consecutive year courtesy of an epic 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6) victory over No. 5-ranked Allie Will and Marrit Boonstra of Florida on Saturday afternoon,
Though things ended well, the match didn't start out great for the Lady Volunteers. UT had its serve broken early in the first set and couldn't recover, losing 6-2.
Tennessee co-head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said she thought Whoriskey wasn't playing within herself in the opening frame.
"I think in the first set, Caitlin was trying to play too fast and do too much," Hahn-Patrick said. "They weren't playing as aggressive as they needed to. They started settling in a little bit more in the second set. From there, it was very highly contested and intense."
After failing to hold serve at the beginning of the second set, the Lady Vols found themselves in 3-0 deficit with things looking bleak.
However, the nation's No. 1 doubles team scrapped all the way back, breaking the Gators three times en route to a 7-5 victory in set two, which forced a deciding third set.
The momentum from that comeback didn't last long, as the Orange and White dropped eight straight points to Will and Boonstra, falling behind 2-0 before even having a chance to blink.
Florida jumped out to a 30-0 lead in the next game and Tennessee seemed to be up against the ropes. However, Whoriskey and Pluskota again came back to break the UF tandem. The Big Orange held serve and tied things up at 2-2.
"A lot of times in tennis, one point can make all of the difference," Hahn-Patrick said. "They got off to a slow start, but the third game of the third set started clicking and they got back on serve again."
From there, neither squad could earn a break. With things locked at 5-5, Florida outlasted Tennessee in a game that went to deuce eight times and featured three break points for the Lady Vols. Though losing tat game was frustrating, Pluskota said she was able to erase it from her mind and UT quickly held to force a tiebreaker.
"It was frustrating because we had chances to break and we were hitting unbelievable shots and they were coming right back with even better shots," Pluskota said. "But we knew we just had to hold and they hadn't won many points against our serve."
Last season, Whoriskey and Pluskota were bounced from the NCAA Doubles Championships in a third-set tiebreaker in the semifinal round.
They didn't want this season to end the same way.
"I'm not going to lie, it came into my mind for a split second," Pluskota said. "I thought, `we can't lose again in a third-set tiebreaker.' We knew we had to take it and we ended up playing a really solid tiebreaker."
Tennessee jumped ahead 4-1 in the tiebreaker and eventually settled in to a 6-3 lead, giving Whoriskey and Pluskota triple match point.
However, Will/Boonstra weren't going down so easily and the talented Gator duo won three straight points to even things at 6-6 as the teams switched sides.
The Lady Vols then slammed the door on the Florida comeback, taking two straight points to sew up the tiebreaker, 8-6, and with it, the match.
They advance to face No. 8 Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist of Georgia, who ended the 28-match winning streak of Notre Dame's Kristy Frilling and Kali Krisik in the quarterfinals.
Gullickson and Gilchrist have faced Whoriskey and Pluskota on two occasions, though both were during the 2008-09 campaign. The Bulldogs were victorious in both contests.
Pluskota said that the UGA duo presents some unique challenges.
"We lost to them both times last year, but it was in an eight-game pro set," Pluskota said. "They hit the ball really, really hard. I think we're the better doubles team but they give people trouble because they just blast the ball. We have to play really solid and if we do, we can come out on top."
Sunday's match is scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. ET. Live results and video of will be available at NCAA.com
Fans are reminded to follow the Lady Vols on Twitter at www.twitter.com/UTLadyVols.
NCAA DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
No. 1 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. No. 5 Allie Will/Marrit Boonstra (UF), 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6)