Tennessee rallies by No. 10 Michigan
Lady Vols top Wolverines behind three, three-set singles wins
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee went into Sunday's contest with No. 10 Michigan (4-1) at the Goodfriend Tennis Center on a three-match winning streak, having outscored its opponents 15-1 in that span.
Sunday was a different story, but with the same result.
The 17th-ranked Lady Vols (4-2) won their fourth consecutive match, upsetting the Wolverines 5-2.
Adversity reared its head early and often Sunday. The doubles point came down to the final court for the first time, and after all previous singles matches had been decided in straight sets, the Lady Vols played four three-set matches against Michigan.
Joanna Henderson and Kata Szekely saw a 7-0 lead dwindle to 7-6 on the decisive doubles court. Brynn Boren fell behind 5-1 in her first singles set, and Sarah Toti did the same to a lesser extent at 3-0. Szekely dropped her opening set, 6-4.
But Tennessee -- despite half of its lineup in its first season of play -- overcame it all.
The Lady Vols earned the doubles point via victories from Boren and Toti (8-1), who won their ninth consecutive together, and Henderson and Szekely (8-6).
Toti, Boren and Szekely sealed the win with victories in singles, while Henderson picked up her fourth consecutive win after the match had been decided.
Tennessee raced out to leads on all three doubles courts, including commanding advantages from Boren and Toti (7-1) and Henderson and Szekely (7-0). After Boren and Toti improved to 6-0 in dual-match play with an 8-1 win against Mimi Nguyen and Michelle Sulahian, Natalie Pluskota and Caitlyn Williams saw their four-match winning streak come to an end, losing 8-6 to 24th-ranked Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender.
At that point, Michigan's Kristen Dodge and Sarah Lee had taken four consecutive games from Henderson and Szekely, and would take two more.
With the Wolverines serving and all eyes on court three, Henderson and Szekely netted the butterflies, and claimed the doubles point for UT, the sixth time in as many matches that the Lady Vols have won the opening point.
With a 1-0 lead, Tennessee got off to a slow start in singles, trailing on five of six courts at one point. But as Boren's resurgence took place, UT elevated its game.
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 6 Georgia 7, FIU 0|
|No. 9 Virginia 7, Boston College 0|
|No. 17 Tennessee 5, No. 10 Michigan 2|
That was evident on court four, where Toti overcame a 3-0 deficit to win her first set 6-4. Racing out to a 4-0 lead in set two, Toti locked up UT's second point and her fourth consecutive win, defeating Michelle Sulahian 6-4, 6-2.
Boren surmounted a steeper deficit in her opening set. Trailing 5-1, Boren won five consecutive games to take a 6-5 lead. A loss in the next game set up Tennessee's first tiebreaker of the dual-match season. The 27th-ranked player prevailed, reaching seven points in 10 attempts.
With momentum on her side, Boren continued to pour it on, defeating 46th-ranked Bolender 7-6 (3), 6-2. Boren's fourth consecutive win gave UT a 3-0 lead.
Michigan's Sarah Lee, who entered the day 15-5 overall and 3-0 in dual-match play, put Michigan on the board with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 victory against Williams.
The attention again turned to Szekely, who was facing her third ranked opponent of the dual-match season in No. 113 Nguyen. After dropping the opening set 6-4, Szekely turned in a pair of 6-1 sets to her advantage, providing UT with the match-clinching point.
Szekely improved to 4-0 in dual-match play, 11-2 overall, 6-1 against ranked opponents and 4-0 in three-set matches.
With Tennessee leading 4-1 and its fourth consecutive victory assured, the Lady Vols played out the final two matches. Henderson showed great resiliency, becoming the second Lady Vol on the day to overcome a 5-1 deficit and win the stanza in a 7-3 tiebreaker. The comeback, in the third set against Kristen Dodge, gave Henderson her fourth consecutive win.
Pluskota, who also won her first set in a 7-6 (4) tiebreaker, dropped her final two sets by a margin of 6-3 to 36th-ranked Emina Bektas.