Gamecocks Lose Heartbreaker to No. 5 Tennessee 4-3
March 4, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The 22nd-ranked South Carolina women's tennis team (7-3, 0-2 SEC) suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday versus No. 5 Tennessee (10-4, 1-1 SEC).
"I was talking to the girls yesterday that when we play Tennessee, usually the score has been 4-3 in the past few years," interim head coach Katarina Petrovic said. "What I expected from them was to give me 100 percent and full effort. Everybody worked hard; I have no complaints. Overall, there's nothing more that I can ask of them because they competed so well."
The Gamecocks lost all three doubles matches to the Lady Vols to kick off the afternoon. UT's Natalie Pluskota and Caitlyn Williams finished first with an 8-2 win over Dominika Kanakova and Anya Morgina at the No. 1 position. The Gamecocks' Josefin Andersson and Katerina Popova held an early 2-0 advantage over Joanna Henderson and Kata Szekely on court three before it evaporated into an 8-3 loss to give the Lady Vols the doubles point. Jaklin Alawi and Adriana Pereira held strong at No. 2 doubles after trailing 7-3, picking up a couple games before Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti finished them off for an 8-5 victory.
"We struggled in doubles again, but what I saw from the previous match was we made improvements," Petrovic said. "If we keep doing what we work on in practice we'll be very good in doubles. We were more aggressive, and I'd like to see them take more volleys and overheads, especially at the net. I want them to be aggressive and keep moving in after the returns."
In singles, the Gamecocks fell behind 2-0 after Boren gave the Lady Vols a 6-1, 6-1 victory against Morgina at No. 1 singles. South Carolina, though, responded with a trio of wins to get back into the contest and eventually take the lead.
Andersson scored South Carolina's first point, dispatching Jesse Grace on court six in straight sets 6-1, 7-5. After winning the first set easily, Andersson fell behind 5-3 to Grace in the second before running off four games in a row. Within minutes, the Gamecocks then got a 6-2, 6-3 triumph from Pereira over Henderson at five, and Popova held off Toti 6-3, 6-4 at No. 4 singles to give Carolina a 3-2 lead.
On court two, Szekely beat Alawi in the first set 6-2, but Alawi answered right back in the second set with a 6-2 win of her own. In the third, Szekely raced out to a 3-0 advantage before Alawi scored a game. In the fifth game, Alawi got out to a 0-40 advantage on Szekely's serve, but the Lady Vol fended off each game point and eventually walked away with a 4-1 lead at the changeover. After trading the next two games, Alawi won three straight games to make it 5-all, and both players held serve in the next two games to force a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Alawi won four of the first five rallies, but Szekely responded by winning five consecutive points for a 6-4 lead. After Alawi saved one match point, Szekely hit a crosscourt forehand winner to pick up the win and make the team score 3-all.
"Jaklin had a lot of heart," Petrovic said. "I think when you get matches like this, sometimes it's luck and sometimes it's the last few points that will decide the match. At 4-2 in the tiebreak, Jaklin had a little trouble trying to hit to (Szekely's) backhand, and I think that's why she lost a few points."
The final match of the day at No. 3 singles ended within a couple minutes of Szekely picking up her win on court two. Williams won the first set 6-4 against Kanakova and got up 4-1 in the second before Kanakova picked up a couple games to cut the deficit to 4-3. Up a break, Williams managed to hold serve the remainder of the set to lift the Lady Vols to victory with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph.
South Carolina next hosts No. 74 Kentucky on Friday at 3 p.m. at Carolina Tennis Center and No. 35 Vanderbilt on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Order of Finish: 1, 6, 5, 4, 2, 3
Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2