Vanderbilt advances past Kentucky into SEC semifinals
April 18, 2014
COLUMBIA, Mo. - The 11th-ranked Vanderbilt women's tennis team dropped the doubles point for the second straight match, but the Commodores were resilient and fought through singles to pick up a 4-2 win over No. 38 Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the 2014 SEC Women's Tennis Championship in Missouri. Vanderbilt advances to Saturday's semifinal match and will face the winner of Georgia and LSU at 10 a.m. CT.
Vanderbilt improves to 19-5 on the season, despite dropping the doubles point. The Commodores gave a gutsy effort on all three doubles courts with Ashleigh Antal and Maggie Leavell falling in the clincher at No. 3.
Kentucky knotted doubles up with an 8-6 win at No. 2, to bring the clinch to court three. Despite being paired together for the first time ever, Antal and Leavell stuck to their game plan and executed points, forcing the match to a tiebreak at 7-all.
The Vandy duo had match point at 6-5, but couldn't finish it off as Kentucky brought it to 6-all at the second changeover.
The Commodores were serving 7-all when UK picked up a mini-break to serve for the match, up 8-7. However, the Commodores answered back as UK sent a return into the net to bring it to 8-all.
The Wildcats would go up 9-8 after their serve, and then picked up another break to win the match as an Antal return went long.
"I thought Ashleigh (Antal) and Maggie (Leavell) played fantastic," said head coach Geoff Macdonald. "All dropping the doubles point means is you have to win four singles instead of three. The resiliency of this team is at a championship level right now. I am so proud of the way they fight despite all the adversity they have faced."
Kentucky jumped to a quick 2-0 lead in singles, as Leavell fell at No. 6 in straight sets.
Vanderbilt never quit, and kept chipping away at the Wildcats. Antal earned a quick 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 4 to get a little momentum back on the side of the Commodores.
After Antal's win at four, No. 54 Frances Altick earned a tough win at No. 1 singles over 60th-ranked Nadia Ravita. Altick picked up the win after a long first set, and with momentum on her side, quickly won 6-0 in the second.
"Ashleigh and Frances played extremely well," said Macdonald. "They picked up two key wins for us today to get back into the match. Fran once again showed why she is so tough, that was another great win on her resume."
With the match knotted up at 2-all the Commodores had to fight through three three-setters before clinching the match.
Marie Casares set up the clinch with her 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win at No. 2 singles over Aldila Sutjiadi. Casares, who has quietly put together one of the greatest individual seasons by a Commodore ever, tied the school record for single season singles wins, bringing her total to 31. She ties both Julie Ditty and Kristen Radford, who set the mark in the late 1990's.
With the match in the balance, Vandy's lone senior, Mira clinched the match for the Commodores, winning 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 at No. 5.
With the win the Commodores have now won at least one match in each of the past 14 seasons in the SEC Tournament.
"This was such a great match to be apart of," Macdonald said. "I have to give Kentucky credit, they played great tennis, they are such a well coached team and really put the pressure on us. However, I'm so proud of this team, who once again played their hearts out and earned the win."
#11 Vanderbilt 4, #38 Kentucky 2
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