LAS VEGAS — With the match tied 3-all, junior Julia Zubkova came through for Illinois State by winning her singles match and clinching the win for Illinois State over UC Riverside, 4-3, Saturday at UNLV’s Fertitta Tennis Center. The four-hour match consisted of three three-set singles matches with two of those matches decided by a tiebreaker game.
After losing the second set 6-0, Zubkova rallied back and defeated UCR’s Donna McCullough in a third-set tiebreaker, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (7-3). With Zubkova’s singles point, Illinois State improves its record to 3-3 on the season, while UCR moves to 3-3 overall as well.
The doubles point at the start of the day was also essential to the Redbird victory.
The doubles point came down to Flight 3 as Redbirds Zubkova and Franziska Steinhardt lost in Flight 1, 8-3, to UCR’s Erynne Oki and Angelique Corpuz, and in Flight 2, the Redbird pairing of Natalia Lech and Tanja Hrovatic bested Donna McCullough and Roxanne Plata (UCR), 8-3.
With their teammates cheering them on, Carmen Peters and Hannah Esker arose to the challenge and defeated the Sakhakorn sisters, 8-5, putting Illinois State ahead 1-0 in the match.
The suspense of the doubles matches carried over to singles play, where Illinois State won in Flights 4 and 6 as well as Zubkova’s Flight 2 victory. In Flight 4, Hrovatic bested Yasaman Sakhakorn (UCR), 6-1, 6-0, and in Flight 6, Esker held on to win a three-set match, topping Roxanne Plata (UCR), 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.
In her first start at Flight 1 singles, Steinhardt fell to UCR’s Erynne Oki, 6-1, 6-1, while Nadia Sakhakorn (UCR) bested Lech 6-1, 6-3, in Flight 3 singles.
The third three-set match of the day came in Flight 5 singles, where Peters ultimately fell to Angelique Corpuz, 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-2).
“What a match,” said head coach Chris Hoover. “We should be excited about this win, but it really drained us emotionally. I think there are some great lessons that we can take out of this match like what can happen when we fight hard through every matchup. UCR was a terrific opponent. They never gave up. I am just so proud of the girls today. They deserve this win.”
The Redbirds continue play at Las Vegas as they take on Utah State Sunday at 10 a.m.