NEW ORLEANS – Freshman Mariam Kurdadze posted her ninth consecutive singles victory, but it was not enough as the Tulane University women’s tennis team dropped a 6-1 decision to No. 54 Tulsa in Conference USA action Tuesday morning at the Goldring Tennis Center.
The Wave narrowly missed winning the doubles point and were in the thick of things early in singles. Three of the six courts went to the Golden Hurricane, 7-5, and a fourth went 6-4, but Tulsa (16-3, 1-0 C-USA) used its collective experience to distance itself from Tulane’s all-freshmen squad the rest of the way to come away with the victory. With the loss, Tulane falls to 8-10 on the year and 1-4 in C-USA action.
“I think experience was a factor today and I think we lost focus,” Tulane head coach Terri Sisk said. “When you lose focus against a talented team, those second sets disappear quickly. I don’t think it was a case of not wanting to battle. It was just an issue of needing to maintain our intensity, maintaining our focus and worrying about the task at hand. Those three things are the kiss of death for us right now.”
Kurdadze saw her string of doubles victory end at six, but extended her singles streak with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Jie Zeng on Court 2. With the win, Kurdadze is now 15-3 in singles play during the spring season, including a perfect 7-0 mark as the Green Wave’s No. 2 spot in the lineup.
“Mariam does a lot of things right,” Sisk said. “She practices really hard, she does what it takes to win and she has great focus. Those three things together are tough to beat. Mariam wants to win. She wants to do anything it takes to win. In these kinds of battles, that’s what it comes down to.”
The Green Wave got off to a good start on Tuesday as the No. 1 doubles tandem of Anna Bartenstein and Elizabeth Hamlin combined to defeat Tulsa’s Thalia Diaz-Barriga, 8-4, and the point hinged on Court 2 as the Hurricane’s Alexandra Kichoutkin and Rebecca Row downed Tulane’s Marcela Fonseca and Jessica Lange, 8-2, in No. 3 action.
Kurdadze and Lindsay Dvorak battled to a 5-5 tie with the Tulsa duo of Zeng and Anastasia Erofeeva, but the Golden Hurricane pair rallied to score the final three points of the match to put Tulsa on top, 1-0.
From there, Tulsa scored the next five points before Kurdadze wrapped up the day with her victory on Court 2. Dvorak, Caroline Gerber and Hamlin hung tough in their respective matches with Diaz-Barriga, Marcinkowska and Erofeeva, but all three Tulane players found themselves on the wrong side of a trio of 7-5 decisions. In the second set, however, Diaz-Barriga defeated Dvorak, 6-1, Marcinkowska edged Gerber with another 7-5 win, and Erofeeva blanked Hamlin, 6-0.
Ewa Szatkowski added another Tulsa point with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Fonseca on Court 6, and Kichoutkin out-lasted Bartenstein in No. 1singles play, 6-4, 6-3.
“It’s key factors that are separating us from these top teams,” Sisk said of her team. “I’ve said it before. It’s being aggressive within a point, first strike of the ball and what we’re doing with that – we tend to run balls down rather than making balls – and focus.
“We’re a young team. They’ve got to learn what their mental routines are. When those things start laying into place, you’re going to begin to see a different team. But those are issues right now that I think every young team has. We’ve got to do a better job. It really comes down to us doing a better job in those three factors.”
The Green Wave return to action on Thursday, March 26, when they close out a five-match homestand against Oregon at the Goldring Tennis Center. First serve for that contest is slated for 2 p.m. and admission is free.
No. 54 TULSA (16-3, 1-0 C-USA) 6, TULANE (8-10, 1-4 C-USA) 1
No. 1 – Alexandra Kichoutkin (TLS) def. Anna Bartenstein (TLN) – 6-4, 6-3
No. 2 – Mariam Kurdadze (TLN) def. Jie Zeng (TLS) – 6-1, 6-1
No. 3 – Thalia Diaz-Barriga (TLS) def. Lindsay Dvorak (TLN) – 7-5, 6-1
No. 4 – Marta Marcinkowska (TLS) def. Caroline Gerber (TLN) – 7-5, 7-5
No. 5 – Anastasia Erofeeva (TLS) def. Elizabeth Hamlin (TLN) – 7-5, 6-0
No. 6 – Ewa Szatkowska (TLS) def. Marcela Fonseca (TLN) – 6-3, 6-3
No. 1 – Bartenstein/Hamlin (TLN) def. Diaz/Barriga/Marcinkowska (TLS) – 8-4
No. 2 – Zeng/Erofeeva (TLS) def. Dvorak/Kurdadze (TLN) – 8-5
No. 3 – Kichoutkin/Rebecca Row (TLS) def. Fonseca/Jessica Lange (TLN) – 8-2
QUOTES FOLLOWING TULANE’S 6-1 C-USA LOSS TO No. 54 TULSA
TULANE HEAD COACH TERRI SISK
Overall thoughts on the match
“I think experience was a factor today and I think we lost focus. When you lose focus against a talented team, those second sets disappear quickly. I don’t think it was a case of not wanting to battle. It was just an issue of needing to maintaining our intensity, maintaining our focus and worrying about the task at hand. Those three things are the kiss of death for us right now.”
On the difference between Tulane and a team like Tulsa
“It’s key factors that are separating us from these top teams. I’ve said it before. It’s being aggressive within a point, first strike of the ball and what we’re doing with that – we tend to run balls down rather than making balls – and focus. We’re a young team. They’ve got to learn what their mental routines are. When those things start laying into place, you’re going to begin to see a different team. But those are issues right now that I think every young team has. We’ve got to do a better job. It really comes down to us doing a better job in those three factors.”
On how much of that is due to inexperience
“I’d say 75-80 percent of it. Maybe they didn’t hear it so much when they were juniors. At this level, it’s different from junior tennis. In junior tennis, sometimes you can get away with not paying as much because the talent pool is not there. But ever team that Tulane plays – and that’s the way I want to do it here – is going to put us into a defensive position quickly. That is something that we’ve got to learn to get out of. I definitely think it’s about experience and focus.”
On falling just shy in doubles play
“It was 5-all in the match and it seemed like we played a marathon game – maybe three or four minute game – and we ended up coming up on the wrong side of it to be down 5-6. There again, the next thing you knew, within two minutes, we were 5-7 down. What happens is these girls have a tendency to focus on what just happened rather than focusing on what’s about to happen. It’s a focus issue. It’s getting ready and mentally preparing of the next ball. Until we do that, these matches that are so tight – even though it may be 8-5, 8-2, or 8-3, they are much tighter than the score – we will always be on the losing side of that battle.”
On the solid performance once again by freshman Mariam Kurdadze
“Mariam does a lot of things right. She practices really hard, she does what it takes to win and she has great focus. Those three things together are tough to beat. Mariam wants to win. She wants to do anything it takes to win. In these kinds of battles, that’s what it comes down to. This team is not lacking in the talent department. We’re lacking in wanting and preparing for every point. Mariam does a great job of that and she’ll have a wonderful career here at Tulane.”
On what Tulane will work on between now and the March 26 match vs. Oregon
“We’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to work on. We’re going to go back to the doubles drawing board and work on a few key things there, and where’re going to work on staying aggressive within a point. I can’t tell you how many games out here today we were up 40-15 or 30-0 and we just don’t turn those games around. If you don’t turn those games around, you’re mentally think about it while you’re playing the rest of your games and that is the kiss of death. That is what we’re experiencing right now. I’m excited because I think we’re getting better. These teams aren’t running through us, but we’re not closing it out. That’s what we have to get better at.”
TULSA HEAD COACH DEAN ORFORD
Overall thoughts on the match
“I don’t think the score reflects how tough this match really was. I think Tulane is a very good team. They are really tough at the top of the lineup and all of our players had a really tough match. I don’t think the score bellies how tough the match was.”
On if the doubles-point win set the tone for the rest of the match
“The doubles is crucial. Every time we step out, the doubles is huge. It was close up and down in doubles. I thought Tulane fought us hard. We haven’t played enough outside, so this was a good match for us to be tested outside in the conditions.”
On having Tulane back on the schedule for the first time since 2005
“I think it’s awesome. They’ve got such a good tradition. We got beat by Tulane for many years, but it’s good to have them back in to strengthen our conference once again.”