CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum wrapped up a dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory for Purdue on Friday. Gisella Pere fought off five dual points as the Boilermakers trailed 3-0 to South Carolina before Purdue completed the win.
"It was a tremendous effort in singles today after a rough start in doubles," head coach Laura Glitz said. "For Gisella to save that many match points and eventually come through to win was key. She has been a rock for the program over the last four years."
Pere trailed Josefin Andersson 5-4 in the final set and faced double match point with Purdue already down 3-0. The senior fought the match back to deuce, but an unforced error put Andersson again one point away from giving the Gamecocks the victory. Pere rose to the occasion and took the final three points of the game to even the score at five just as Lynda Xepoleas got Purdue on the board with a 6-3, 7-5 win at No. 2 over the 109th-ranked player in the country, Katerina Popova.
"I had two things on my mind that kept me going," said Pere. "I wanted my team to win our first NCAA match because we have worked so hard all year long. I felt we deserved to win, so I had to make sure I did my part. I also didn't want this to be the last match of my career."
Andersson held her serve to go up 6-5 in the deciding set. Then Pere, on serve, fell behind 15-40. She returned ball after ball until Andersson finally missed a couple shots long and brought the score to deuce. There, the Purdue senior took the final two points to force a tiebreaker.
After taking the first point, Pere dropped the next four and Andersson took a commanding 4-1 lead. Pere responded by winning three in a row, but she couldn't quite get the lead. Andersson took a 5-4 lead, but Pere was set to serve. She won both service points and then the next point on Andersson's serve to win the match, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5).
"I played Andersson a couple years ago and she beat me," Pere added. "I didn't want that to happen again so I was ready to do whatever I had to in order to get the win."
Moments after Pere brought the team score to 3-2, Mara Schmidt completed an impressive win at No. 1. The junior faced the No. 94 singles player in the country, Jaklin Alawi. Schmidt led 5-2 in the first set, but couldn't put Alawi away. Alawi evened the score at five before eventually taking the first set in a tiebreak, 7-6 (5). From there, it was all Schmidt. The Boilermaker took the second set, 6-3, before cruising to a 6-2 win in the third. The win evened the team score at three and made the match at No. 4 the decider.
Bernard-Feigenbaum and Dominika Kanakova were tied at three when Schmidt evened the score. The Boilermaker freshman, no stranger to clutch situations as she clinched the 4-3 win at then-No. 19 Notre Dame, picked up a pair of breaks and held her one service game to win the match, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, and give Purdue the 4-3 win.
"For Tess to be able to clinch this match and the second key match of the season is unbelievable," said Glitz. "This is a huge win for the program, but we have more work to do. I look forward to a competitive match tomorrow."
The Boilermakers fell in the 3-0 hole after dropping the doubles point and the singles matches at No. 5 and No. 3. Elixane Lechemia and Ximena Siles Luna knocked off Bernard-Feigenbaum and Pere at No. 3, 8-3. The No. 29 duo in the country clinched the point as Alawi and Kanakova defeated the No. 27 doubles team nationally, Schmidt and Krisztina Kapitany. Siles Luna then beat Kapitany at No. 5, 6-3, 6-0, before Lechemia topped Vidal at No. 3, 6-3, 7-5.
The Boilermakers improve to 18-5 while South Carolina, the No. 34 team in the country in the latest polls, finishes its season 13-12. The 18 wins ties a Purdue record with last year's team that also made the NCAA Tournament, but was knocked out in the first round.
The win is just the second NCAA Tournament win in Purdue history. The only other victory came in 2006 when the Boilermakers beat Harvard, 4-2, in Evanston, Ill.
South Carolina suffers just its third first-round loss in the 19-consecutive years that it has made the tournament.
The Boilermakers advance to the round of 32 to face the winner of No. 6 Miami and North Florida. That match will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.