KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After a two year absence from the NCAA Sweet 16, the Vanderbilt women’s tennis team finds themselves back in familiar territory after defeating Tennessee, 4-3, in the second round of the regional.
In the Sweet 16, Vanderbilt will face the University of North Carolina on Friday at 5 p.m. CT at the Taube Tennis Center, on the campus of Stanford University.
“I could not be more proud of this team,” said head coach Geoff Macdonald. “It’s a great group that really believes in themselves. We showed a lot of heart today when faced with tremendous adversity. Tennessee is a great program, and I consider them to be one of the best in the country. I think Mike and Sonja Patrick (UT co-head coaches) do a fabulous job.”
Despite falling behind 3-1, the Commodores fought back and won the remaining three singes matches, which included a three-set victory from Keilly Ulery on court five.
Freshman Lauren Mira clinched the victory for Vanderbilt with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Maria Sorbello on court four. Sorbello tied the second set at 4-4, but Mira broke her serve to take a 5-4 lead and held serve to earn the victory.
“I think Lauren is coming on and is going to be a great player,” commented Macdonald. “The way she played at the end of her match took a lot of guts. She could have played it safe, but she played with controlled aggression.”
Minutes before Mira clinched the match, Ulery tied the score at 3-3 after coming back and defeating Millie Nichols in three sets. Ulery dropped the first set, 7-5, but picked up a pair of 6-1 victories to set things up for Mira.
“I don’t know what I can say about Keilly Ulery,” noted Macdonald. “How many times does she win a three-set match to set up a 4-3 victory for us? It’s astonishing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a player win as many three-set matches that turn into 4-3 victories like that in my 23 years of coaching. She’s a great student and she’s really matured a lot.”
Jackie Wu defeated 95th-ranked Rosalia Alda, 6-3, 6-4 on court two to pull the Commodores within one, trailing 3-2. Earlier this season, Alda topped Wu, 6-2, 6-3, but Wu was able to change her tactics and pick up a crucial win this afternoon.
“I though Jackie had a huge win for us,” said Macdonald. “I’m really proud of how she changed her tactics and really believed in herself.”
Rachael Dillon earned Vanderbilt’s first point of the afternoon when she cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Whitney Wofford in the No. 6 match.
Tennessee’s two singles wins came on courts one and three. Brynn Boren, the 45th-ranked player in the nation and a member of the SEC All-Freshman Team, defeated Chelsea Preeg, 6-3, 6-1, on court three, and 40th-ranked Natalie Pluskota topped Alex Leatu, 6-3, 6-3, in the No. 1 match.
Tennessee jumped out to a 1-0 lead after picking up doubles wins on courts one and two. Mira and Ulery earned an 8-5 victory on court three to give Vanderbilt an early advantage before the Lady Volunteers came back. Rosalia Alda and Maria Sorbello, ranked 58th in the nation, defeated Wu and Preeg, 8-6, and seconds later, he 19th-ranked duo of Natalie Pluskota and Brynn Boren topped 36th-ranked Leatu and Dillon, 8-5, to clinch the point.
More information regarding Friday’s Sweet 16 match will be posted to vucommodores.com later this week.