BLOOMINGTON, Ind. –Tennessee (7-3) won for the seventh time in its last eight matches, defeating Indiana, 5-2, Friday afternoon at the IU Tennis Center.
“They played very prepared,” co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. “When we’ve come to IU, it’s been a difficult place to play on the road. I thought they were all mentally prepared to come out and compete hard.”
The Lady Vols endured several other firsts against the Hoosiers (7-2) on Friday, also playing their first true road match, their first contest against an unranked opponent and their first with this lineup (Boren-Szekely-Williams-Toti-Henderson-Grace).
With senior Natalie Pluskota sidelined Friday with a foot injury, UT’s lineup shifted ahead a spot in both singles and doubles — and gave freshman Jesse Grace the opportunity to make her debut.
“I think it definitely gives the younger ones a lot of confidence,” Hahn-Patrick said. “It’s not something they’ve had to experience, having a person at the top of the lineup having to go out. Our older ones understand that. They came prepared and I think they did a good job of helping our freshmen get prepared. I think they did well today.”
Extending their program record, the Lady Vols got on the board first by securing the doubles point for the 10th consecutive time to open the season.
The second-ranked duo of Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti, along with Joanna Henderson and Kata Szekely, both won to put Tennessee in front, 1-0.
UT also recorded straight-set victories in singles from Boren, Szekely, Toti and Caitlyn Williams as the Lady Vols scored the first five points of the contest.
Henderson and Szekely inserted the first piece of the puzzle, defeating Kayla Fujimoto and Evgeniya Vertesheva, 8-1, to improve to 6-1 on the season. IU’s No. 2 tandem entered the match 20-4 (6-2).
Grace and Caitlyn Williams, playing their first match together at the No. 3 position, fell 8-2 to Leslie Hureau and Alecia Kauss, leaving the doubles point up for grabs.
For just the third time this season, the doubles point came down to the final court and for the second time the pressure was on the second-ranked pairing in the country.
No problem for Boren and Toti, who won their 13th consecutive match together and improved to 10-0 in dual-match play with an 8-4 advantage againstCarolyn Chupa and Katie Klyczek. Boren and Toti have notched a team-high seven doubles-clinching points.
While Toti finished last in doubles, it was just the opposite in singles. The reigning three-time SEC Freshman of the Week won her sixth match in seven attempts, elevating the Lady Vols to a 2-0 lead. With a 6-3, 6-3 win against Carolyn Chupa, who was ranked 79th to open the season, 10 of Toti’s 12 wins as a freshman have been in straight sets.
Coming off consecutive losses for the first time this season, Szekely returned to her winning ways, improving to 3-0 this season from the No. 2 position. Szekely defeated Evgeniya Vertesheva 6-3, 6-1 to give Tennessee a 3-0 advantage.
Complying with the theme of the day, Williams notched her first career match-clinching point, defeating Katie Klyczek 6-2, 6-3, to ensure UT’s seventh overall win. Winning consecutive matches for the first time this season, Williams is 4-0 in weekend openers.
After the match was decided, Boren won her first career contest from the No. 1 spot, also snapping a two-match losing skid. Boren increased her team-high in singles wins with her 14th against Leslie Hureau (6-2, 6-2).
Indiana scored victories on courts five and six, providing a final score of 5-2. Six of UT’s seven wins have come by at least three points.