May 14, 2010

Courtesy of Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -The 14th-ranked University of Tennessee women's tennis team advanced to the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament with an impressive 4-0 victory over Winthrop on Friday afternoon at Barksdale Tennis Stadium.

Tennessee co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick thought her team responded well after nearly three weeks off.

"It's always tough when you've been off for a while and have to come back," Hahn-Patrick said. "Give credit to Winthrop, they played tough and loose and really made us work for it."

The Lady Vols (17-8) advance to face SEC nemesis Vanderbilt in the second round at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Commodores defeated No. 41 Indiana, 4-0, earlier in the day.

These two schools are no strangers to each other, as tomorrow will mark the fourth meeting of the season between them. Tennessee holds a 2-1 edge in the season series, including a 4-2 win in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on April 23.

UT was boosted in doubles play by the return of sophomore Natalie Pluskota to the No. 1 spot. She and Caitlin Whoriskey, the top-ranked doubles team in the nation, played together for the first time in exactly three months after Pluskota suffered an injury. Prior to that, the duo was 19-1 and took home the 2009 ITA All-America Doubles Championship in October.

They didn't show any rust, throttling Winthrop's top doubles team of Yasmine Alkema and Elizaveta Zaytseva, 8-0. The Lady Vols captured an 8-3 win at No. 3 doubles to clinch the doubles point and move ahead 1-0.

Whoriskey said that she and Pluskota hardly missed a beat.

"It felt just like last fall," Whoriskey said. "We played really well, but we still have a few things to work on. I think tomorrow's match will be a challenge for us, which is good heading into the NCAA Doubles Tournament."

The talented tandem earned the top overall seed in the NCAA Doubles Draw, which is set to begin May 26 in Athens, Ga.

Freshman Kata Szekely made the team tally 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-1 win at sixth singles. Moments later, Jennifer Meredith posted a 6-2, 6-3 win at the No. 5 spot to move UT within a point of advancing to the second round.

For the sixth time this year, Rosalía Alda sealed the victory for Tennessee, winning a 6-4, 6-2 decision at No. 3 singles. First, second and fourth singles went unfinished.

With the right to advance to the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga. on the line, Pluskota knows that facing the Commodores won't be easy.

"It's always exciting playing Vanderbilt," Pluskota said. "It's always a really good match. It's really good that we're playing them for the fourth time because we know their style and how to match up with them.

"We're going to compete hard and hope to come out on top tomorrow." General admission tickets will be $5, while student tickets will be $3 with ID. Children two-and-under will be admitted free of charge. Tickets may be purchased the day of the match at the gate and no advance tickets will be sold. Tickets will be sold as single day admissions and pass outs will be allowed. Gates will open at 8 a.m., one hour prior to the first men's match tomorrow.

A live blog and live scoring of Saturday's match will be available at UTLadyVols.com.