Co-Head Coach Mike Patrick with Natalie Pluskota and Caitlin Whoriskey
Nov. 7, 2009
By: Lindsey Williford, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - It took three sets but the seventh-ranked and top-seeded Tennessee duo of senior Caitlin Whoriskey and sophomore Natalie Pluskota edged out Miami's (Fla.) Gabriella Mejia and Laura Vallverdu in Saturday's semifinal doubles match, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor National Tournament, held at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
The first set kicked off with Mejia and Vallverdu, ranked 36th in the nation, jumping to a 3-1 lead. UT managed to take one more game but couldn't overcome the stellar play of the Hurricane combo which took away a 6-2 set victory.
"We have started slow every match we've played here," said Co-Head Coach Mike Patrick. "I think a little can be attributed to Natalie being out a few weeks prior to this event."
The Lady Vols were able to shake off the slow start, however, and responded by winning the second frame, 6-3, to force a match-deciding third set.
"We started to play some good, quality tennis," Patrick said. "Caitlin and Natalie definitely had the right momentum going into the third set."
In the third and final frame, both teams put forth tremendous efforts, but neither could find the quick opening to pull away for a victory. With the set deadlocked at 4-4, UT finally seized control of the match, as Whoriskey and Pluskota won their service and broke the Hurricanes to claim a 6-4 triumph and advance to the tournament finals.
"Both teams played really tough," Patrick said. "Everybody on the court wanted a shot to play in the finals. Fortunately, we were able to close it out and now have the opportunity to play in our second national final of the year."
With the opportunity to compete in the finals comes another tough opponent on the other side of the net. For the second time this season and third in the past two, that opponent comes in the form of Stanford's Hilary Barte and Lindsay Bardette. The Cardinal combo is ranked third in the country and seeded second in this tournament.
The last time the two teams met was in the quarterfinals at the Riviera/ITA All-American Tournament in October. There, Tennessee avenged its 2009 NCAA Doubles Championship semifinal loss to the Cardinal, 8-4.
"We are looking forward to tomorrow's match against Stanford in the final," Patrick said. "The last two meetings against them have produced high quality tennis."
Should the Tennessee tandem win on Sunday, it would mark its second ITA-sponsored national title of the fall season.
The doubles finals will start at 10 a.m. on Sunday with live stats available on the ITA website at http://www.itatennis.com/Events/ITANationalChampionships/NationalIndoors
(1) No. 7 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. No. 36 Gabriella Mejia/Laura Vallverdu (U. of Miami) - 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
(1) No. 7 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) vs. (2) No. 3 Hilary Barte/Lindsay Bardette (Stanford) - 10 a.m.