DALLAS (SMU)-SMU women's tennis (18-2) extended their win streak to seven with an edgy win (4-3) over crosstown rival No. 28 TCU (6-8) at Turpin Tennis Stadium on Wednesday, March 18 in a competition that was decided by the final match of the evening, with senior Mustang Kseniia Tokarieva pulling out the win in three sets (6-2, 4-6, 6-4) over Maria Babanova.
SMU entered the match with a determined resolve to earn wins in doubles play to set the tone and gain an advantage heading into singles competition. Playing at the top spot for the Mustangs with their new national ranking of No. 43, freshmen tandem Marta Lesniak and Aleksandra Malyarchikova claimed the upset (8-4) against TCU's top 25 duo, No. 23 Anna Sydorska and Macall Harkins.
On court two, No. 60 SMU twosome senior Natalia Bubien and junior Pavi Francis went to work against Kayla Duncan and Katatriina Touhimaa, dropping the Horned Frogs with a strong 8-3 win. To earn the sweep in doubles, Mustang pair Tokarieva and junior Nicole Briceno collected a victory (8-3) over Babanova and Gaby Mastromarino.
"I knew heading into the match that we were going to face exceptional doubles talent, with TCU harboring one of the best pairs in that nation. Our preparation and focus enabled us to perform at such a high level. Our doubles play on every court was the best I have seen, and winning the doubles point was the difference-maker in whether or not we won the match," said head coach Lauren Longbotham-Meisner.
Turning their attention to singles play, the Mustangs proceeded to slug it out with the Horned Frogs in a dogfight that endured until the last possible point was played. With No. 57 Lesniak dropping her first match of the season at the top spot in an upset to No. 84 Harkins, senior Natalia Bubien stepped it up on court two, fighting through a first set tiebreaker to handily defeat Touhimaa in the second set (7-6, 6-1).
At the number three spot, Malyarchikova continued her winning ways and gained her sixth consecutive win in easy straight sets (6-1, 6-1) against Duncan. "Aleksandra played great tonight. She has been a consistent high-achiever for us since her first match, and once again she proved her value to this team," said Longbotham-Meisner.
With losses on courts four and five, SMU put their faith in seasoned veteran Tokarieva to pull out the win. Tokarieva proved to be reliable, taking down Horned Frog Babanova in a triple-set clash (6-2, 4-6, 6-2). "Kseniia is the poster child for comeback kid. She has battled through three years of injury and remained resilient. She put the win on her back and rose to the challenge, taking on the last match for an SMU victory," said Longbotham-Meisner.
"We give TCU major props; we knew this was going to be a dogfight and prepared for it in that manner. Of course, TCU did not disappoint and fought to the very end. Every year this is a match we want to win, being rivals and all, and the level of play is elevated. This was the best college tennis match I have witnessed, and as a team we need this kind of challenge to prove how much heart we have in this game," said Longbotham-Meisner.
No. 24 SMU 4, No. 28 TCU 3
1. Lesniak/Malyarchikova (SMU) def. Harkins/Sydorska (TCU), 8-4
2. Bubien/Francis (SMU) def. Duncan/Tuohimaa (TCU), 8-3
3. Tokarieva/Briceno (SMU) def. Babanova/Mastromarino (TCU), 8-3
Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1
1. Harkins (TCU) def. No. 57 Lesniak (SMU), 6-2, 3-6, 7-5
2. Bubien (SMU) def. Tuohimaa (TCU), 7-6 (6) 6-1
3. Malyarchikova (SMU) def. Duncan (TCU), 6-1, 6-1
4. Mastromarino (TCU) def. Briceno (SMU), 7-5, 6-4
5. Hertzberg (TCU) def. Francis (SMU), 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4
6. Tokarieva (SMU) def. Babanova (TCU), 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Order of Finish: 3, 4, 2, 1, 5, 6