University of Tennessee Women Advances To NCAA Second Round
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - For the 16th time in 17 years, the Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team has advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, using a 4-0 win over VCU on Friday at the Snyder Tennis Center to continue its season.
Winning the doubles point for the 21st time this season, Tennessee added singles wins from Natalie Pluskota, Kata Szekely and Caitlyn Williams and will face regional host Virginia on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.
"We're pumped," Pluskota said. "This is tournament time. Anything can happen. We're coming to win, we're playing to win and we're going to give it everything we have."
VCU (20-5) entered the contest with a large dose of confidence riding an 11-match winning streak and a Colonial Athletic Association championship, but the Lady Vols (15-12) did their best to crush that early and often.
After winning the doubles point, UT won five of six opening sets in singles and raced to the finish line.
"Our ones played fantastic," said co-head coach Mike Patrick, referring to UT's doubles play. "Our two and three, you know VCU is a tough team. They competed well at every spot. We had to earn every one of those victories today. I'm just proud of our kids and what they did."
Pluskota and Szekely, who earned an at-large selection to the NCAA Doubles Tournament, jumped out to a 5-0 lead before winning their match, 8-1, over Alex and Ana Bara.
While Pluskota and Szekely improved to 15-1 (8-0) together, Tennessee found itself trailing on courts two and three with the doubles point up for grabs.
Williams and Brynn Boren trailed 5-4, while Joanna Henderson and Jesse Grace were behind 6-4. Both retaliated, but Boren and Williams reeled off four consecutive games to win 8-4, giving the Lady Vols a 1-0 advantage.
From there, Tennessee cruised to its sixth shutout of the season and 16th in an NCAA Tournament match.
Pluskota dominated her first set against Ana Bara, 6-0, but it was her doubles partner that took care of business first.
After dropping her initial game, Szekely won 12 of the next 14 games to give the Lady Vols a 2-0 lead with a 6-1, 6-2 decision over Olga Terteac.
"It was obviously really good to get a win, but it was a really hard match," Szekely said. "It's always hard to come back and compete after having three or four weeks off. It was really good and it was a team effort today."
Matching a season best, Szekely won her fifth consecutive match and sixth in seven tries.
Shortly thereafter, Pluskota used a 6-0, 6-3 victory to put the Lady Vols in winning position. Winning for the fifth time in her last six matches, Pluskota is now 4-1 all-time in NCAA Team Tournament play.
"It's great to have a good win today going into tomorrow," Pluskota said. "It took everyone out there working together to get the team win and that's the most important thing right now."
With Boren and Grace winning tiebreakers to capture their first sets, it was Williams who would bring home the win for the Lady Vols.
After struggling through a season of injuries, it was a 6-4, 6-3 win to elevate Tennessee to the second round that proved to be the cure.
Williams fell behind 3-1 in the second set, before registering the next five games to clinch the win for Tennessee.
"I've definitely been playing a lot better lately," Williams said. "It's just great to actually compete again, fight hard, fight for the team and get a good win for the team."
Tennessee is now 27-12 all-time at the regional site of the NCAA Tournament and looks to advance to the Round of 16 for the 10th time in program history Saturday.
"We're going to have to come out and compete like demons tomorrow," Patrick said. "We did a great job today and I'm proud of them, but it's not over. We have to come out tomorrow and give them everything we have."
#23 Tennessee 4, #40 VCU 0
NCAA TOURNAMENT - FIRST ROUND
1. #35 Natalie Pluskota (UT) def. Ana Bara (VCU) 6-0, 6-3
2. #32 Brynn Boren (UT) vs. Alex Bara (VCU) 7-6 (2), 2-0 DNF
3. #57 Kata Szekely (UT) def. Olga Terteac (VCU) 6-2, 6-1
4. Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. Salome Kvitashvili (VCU) 6-4, 6-3
5. Joanna Henderson (UT) vs. Daria Yakauleva (VCU) 3-6, 5-2 DNF
6. Jesse Grace (UT) vs. Josefin Hjertquist (VCU) 7-6 (5), 0-2 DNF
1. #10 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (UT) def. Alex Bara/Ana Bara (VCU) 8-1
2. Brynn Boren/Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. Olga Terteac/Daria Yakauleva (VCU) 8-5
3. Joanna Henderson/Jesse Grace (UT) vs. Salome Kvitashvili/Josefin Hjertquist (VCU) 6-6 DNF
Order of finish: Doubles (1, 2); Singles (3, 1, 4)
Records: Tennessee (15-12), VCU (20-5)