CLEMSON, S.C. -- The No. 21 nationally ranked Ole Miss women’s tennis team defeated 33rd-ranked Illinois 4-2 in the first round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend Saturday at the Clemson Indoor Center. With the win, the Rebels (2-0) will face 14th-ranked Clemson Sunday at 1 p.m. CT for the right to advance to the National Team Indoor Final 16.
Clemson rallied to defeat Texas A&M 4-3 in the other first round match.
After dropping the doubles point and the No. 2 singles match, the Rebels won three three-set matches at Nos. 4, 3 and 1 singles to take a 3-2 lead. Junior Laura van de Stroet then finished off a 7-5, 6-3 win over Breanne Smutko at No. 5 singles to clinch the Rebel victory.
“We are excited to be advancing to the final,” head coach Mark Beyers said. “We had a chance to close out the doubles point, but couldn’t convert. I am proud of the team for coming back in singles. We won three three-setters. It’s still early in the season, and we are happy to be 2-0 and look forward to our next match on Sunday.”
The Rebels dropped the opening point to fall behind 1-0. After the No. 7 ranked team of Karen Nijssen and Kristi Boxx won 8-3 at No.1 doubles, Illinois claimed the next two matches, 8-6 at No. 2 and 8-4 at No. 3. Ole Miss’ Gabriela Rangel and Connor Vogel led their match 6-2, 40-15 at No. 2 doubles, before the Illini team rallied.
Illinois increased the lead to 2-0 when Megan Fudge downed Nijssen 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.
Vogel put Ole Miss on the board with a come-from-behind win at the No. 4 spot against Leigh Finnegan. After dropping the first set 6-3, Vogel was impressive in winning the next two 6-1, 6-1 to make it 2-1 Illinois.
Sophomore Abigail Guthrie defeated Illinois’ Chelcie Abajian 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to even the match at 2-2, and then Kristi Boxx finished off her own comeback at No. 1 to give Ole Miss a 3-2 advantage. Boxx, ranked No. 40 in the nation, won a close first set 6-4 to 33rd-ranked Rachael White. The two battled to a second set tiebreak, which Boxx won lost 7-6(4), and then the Grenada, Miss., native took the decisive set 6-2 to set up the clinching match at No. 5 singles.
#21 Ole Miss 4
#33 Illinois 2
1. Boxx/Nijssen (OM) def. Finnegan/White (ILL) 8-3
2. Abajian/Lambropoulos (ILL) def. Rangel/Vogel (OM) 8-6
3. Fudge/Smutko (ILL) def. Guthrie/van de Stroet (OM) 8-4
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3
1. Kristi Boxx (OM) def. Rachael White (ILL) 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2
2. Megan Fudge (ILL) def. Karen Nijssen (OM) 6-1, 6-2
3. Abigail Guthrie (OM) def. Chelcie Abajian (ILL) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
4. Connor Vogel (OM) def. Leigh Finnegan (ILL) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1
5. Laura van de Stroet (OM) def. Breanne Smutko (ILL) 7-5, 6-3
6. Gabriela Rangel (OM) vs. Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) 3-6, 1-2, DNF
Order of Finish: 2, 4, 3, 1, 5