KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt women’s tennis won an instant classic Friday afternoon as they defeated 29th-ranked Tennessee on the road in Knoxville, 5-2.
After dropping a tightly contested doubles point, the Commodores came back to take five of six first sets and put themselves in prime position to claim the necessary four points. Friday’s contest saw three matches go to third sets as well as a pair of tiebreak wins on Court 5 for Dasha Kourkina to conclude the match.
With the win, Vandy improves to 13-7 on the season and 4-6 in SEC play.
- Neither team was going out without a fight as all three courts were knotted 5-5 at one point in search of the first point of the afternoon.
- On Court 3, Yufei Long and Amy Stevens dropped a tight battle, ultimately falling 7-5 to their Tennessee opponents.
- Playing on Court 2 for the first time as a duo, MaryAnn Rompf and Dasha Kourkina tied things up at 5-5 before dropping a 7-5 decision as Tennessee took the doubles point.
- When their match was called, 76th ranked doubles team Anna Ross and Holly Staff led the 15th-ranked duo of Daria Kuczer and Tenika McGiffin, 6-5.
Strength at Singles
- Stevens came roaring back in the singles competition, claiming a pair of 6-3 set wins to tie things up at 1-1 in Knoxville.
- Staff made it 2-, Vanderbilt, with a win in straight sets on Court 3. After topping 106th-ranked Elza Tomase, 6-3, in the first set, Staff held strong in the second to maintain the advantage and eventually clinch the 6-4 victory.
- Marcella Cruz extended the Vandy lead to 3-1 with a convincing third set sweep on Court 4. The junior took set one, 6-3, before dropping her second set by a slim 6-4 margin. In the decisive third set, Cruz stormed back to post a 6-0 win and clinch the third point of the afternoon for the Dores.
- After recording the lone first set loss for Vanderbilt, Anna Ross battled back on the top court as the junior won the match clinching point in three sets. Ranked 46th nationally, Ross fell in set one, 6-2, to the 30th-ranked Rebeka Mertana, before forcing the deciding third set with a 6-4 set two victory. With the pair knotted at 5-5, Ross managed to pull ahead, claiming the deuce point to go up 6-5. A service ace proved the game-winner as Ross sent a rocket over the net to clinch match point, 7-5.
- The remaining courts played out as Anessa Lee was locked in a third set battle of her own on Court 2. The sophomore, ranked 78 in the nation, faced 55th-ranked Tenika McGiffin, where she managed to take set one, 6-2. Her Vols opponent then swept set two as the pair headed to a deciding third set late in the afternoon contest. The two held fairly even in set three but McGiffin eventually took the win with a 6-4 set score to cut Vanderbilt’s lead to two.
- Kourkina battled back to a pair of tiebreak wins on Court 5 to give Vandy its fifth and final point of the afternoon. The two sets mirrored each other as the junior led early but ultimately found herself trailing, 6-5, in both. Kourkina rallied to tie things up in both her first and second set before clinching the set point 7-6 to give the Dores the 5-2 final in Knoxville.
What They’re Saying
Head Coach Aleke Tsoubanos
“Start to finish this was an incredible match to be a part of. The competitiveness was there on every court and it’s been a focus of ours all week leading up to today. We lost a tough doubles point after having multiple match points on both Court 1 and Court 3 but we responded well in the start of singles.
“The straight set wins from Amy and Holly were huge for momentum. I’m so happy for Anna to get a big win against Mertena and clinch for us. She has lost some really close ones and she performed beautifully today in the big moments. We’ve lost some close ones on the road this Spring, but it feels good this one in Knoxville.
“Overall, I’m super proud of this team.”
Anna Ross, Junior
“After the second set I looked myself in the mirror and said out loud, ‘You can do this. Everything you’ve got, this set right now.’
“Late in the third set, honestly, I was telling myself to breathe. I repeated it over and over and over again. Whether I was serving or receiving, when I got up to the baseline I would always say, ‘God’s got you.’
“When I got up 6-5, I said ‘you’ve been here before, you know what to do.’ Ultimately, anything I would say or do would help bring my heart rate down and stay in the moment.”
Vanderbilt conclude its regular season road slate at Georgia Sunday. The Commodores and Bulldogs are set to get underway in Athens, Georgia, at noon CT.