KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- Saturday afternoon didn't quite go according to plan for the No. 13 Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team, but the squad overcame some injuries to defeat No. 74 College of Charleston at Barksdale Tennis Stadium in an NCAA Championship first round match.
After some morning showers that forced the first match of the day indoors, the Lady Vols were able to play outdoors and started strong by dominating the doubles competition.
The 19th-ranked duo of junior Natalie Pluskota and freshman Brynn Boren cruised to an 8-0 win on court one to give UT the early advantage. Senior Jennifer Meredith and freshman Millie Nichols clinched the doubles point for Tennessee with an 8-2 triumph on court three. On court two, the match the featured the 28th-ranked tandem of seniors Rosalía Alda and Maria Sorbello went unfinished, but Alda and Sorbello were up 7-3.
College of Charleston evened the score up at 1-1 when sophomore Kata Szekely was forced to retire with an injury in the second set. The Szekesfehervar, Hungary, native was in control prior to getting hurt, winning the first set by a score of 6-1.
"Injuries can make things really tough," Lady Vol co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "They (College of Charleston) were competing real hard in a couple spots and the next thing you know the match is close. College of Charleston came out with a lot of fight and a lot of heart, but we stuck to it and got it done with some broken parts. We're always pleased with a win in the first round."
That would be the only point the Cougars would get as the Lady Vols quickly regained the lead when Sorbello defeated Katie Lee in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0.
After winning her first set on court three by a score of 6-2, No. 45 Boren shut out Caroline Newman 6-0 in the second set to increase the Lady Vol lead to 3-1. The singles win bumped her team-best win total up to 29 on the season.
Court six was a bit different today for UT, as freshman Whitney Wofford stepped in for Nichols, who was scratched because of an injury. Wofford excelled in the role, downing Keely Mulligan 7-5, 6-2, to clinch the match.
"She (Wofford) hadn't competed that much and it is always tough to come off the bench when you haven't played in a while, but she did a good job," Patrick said. "She's worked hard and I'm glad we pulled it out and she clinched the match for us."
Courts one and two were both hard fought, back-and-forth matches that went unfinished. On one, 40th-ranked Pluskota battled with Christin Newman into the second set. Pluskota won the first set 7-5 and was tied with Newman at four apiece when Wofford gave the Orange and White the win. Alda, who is ranked 95th, had a chance to win, but Emma Hayman prevailed in a second set tie breaker (7-3) to force a third set after Alda won the first set 6-1.
The win over the Cougars sets UT up with a rematch of a familiar foe in No. 19 Vanderbilt tomorrow at Noon. The Commodores topped Winthrop in the morning by a score of 4-0.
The two teams met on March 13, a match in which the Big Orange came out on top, 5-2. Tennessee and Vanderbilt also met a year ago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, which resulted in UT moving onto the Sweet 16.
"We need to bring our `A' game," Patrick said. "A lot is in our trainers and players hands on how healthy they can come out there tomorrow. If we don't come out and bring our best effort, we won't get to move on. Vanderbilt is too good of a team for us to limp in there because they won't roll over."
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#13 Tennessee 4, #74 College of Charleston 1
1. #40 Natalie Pluskota (TENN) vs. Christin Newman (COFC) 7-5, 4-4, unfinished
2. #95 Rosalía Alda (TENN) vs. Emma Hayman (COFC) 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 3-1, unfinished
3. #45 Brynn Boren (TENN) def. Caroline Newman (COFC) 6-2, 6-0
4. Kinsey Casey (COFC) def. Kata Szekely (TENN) 1-6, 2-0, retired
5. Maria Sorbello (TENN) def. Katie Lee (COFC) 6-1, 6-0
6. Whitney Wofford (TENN) def. Keely Mulligan (COFC) 7-5, 6-2
1. #19 Brynn Boren/Natalie Pluskota (TENN) def. Emma Hayman/Irene Viana (COFC) 8-0
2. #28 Maria Sorbello/Rosalía Alda (TENN) vs. Katie Lee/Kinsey Casey (COFC) 7-3, unfinished
3. Jennifer Meredith/Millie Nichols (TENN) def. Christin Newman/Kelly Kambourelis (COFC) 8-2
College of Charleston 21-8; National ranking #74
Tennessee 20-7; National ranking #13
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (4,5,3,6)