Georgia Tech survives Yale in 4-3 effort to move ahead to second round
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Freshman Natasha Prokhnevska knew the challenge facing her and she responded in a big way to clinch a 4-3 Georgia Tech comeback win against Yale in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on the Florida campus Saturday afternoon.
The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 23, improve to 15-9 on the season while the Bulldogs, ranked No. 35, finish their season 17-4.
Prokhnevska faced Yale junior Annie Sullivan, who entered the NCAA tournament with a perfect 19-0 singles record in dual matches this spring. The short-handed Yellow Jackets had to win four of five singles matches in order to defeat the Bulldogs. Prokhnevska started quick, running out to a 3-0 lead in the first set before Sullivan rallied for a 6-3 first set win.
Knowing her teammates needed her, Prokhnevska bounced back in a big way, winning the second set 6-0 and forcing a decisive third set. The Wilmington, Del., native held serve to take a 4-3 lead, and earned a break to go up 5-3 before her two-handed backhand went by Sullivan to send the Yellow Jackets into the second round. It is the third match this year Prokhnevska has clinched and the fourth time this season Tech has won the dual after losing the doubles point.
"We were very fortunate [Saturday] against a really tough team from Yale that competed very hard," head coach Rodney Harmon said. "They had a phenomenal season. They came in 17-3 and played extremely well. We lost the doubles point where they out-played us. We were able to get it going in singles, especially Muriel and the three freshmen who all brought home wins against tough opponents. It was a well-played match.
"We've been working on a lot of things in Natasha's game," Harmon added. "In her first set she got up 3-0, then she made some errors, but she stuck with what we've been working on. Her game, from where she was when she came to Georgia Tech in August to where she is now, has made tremendous progress."
Georgia Tech's No. 1 doubles pair of Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard continued their dominating doubles play, racing out to a 5-0 lead before posting an 8-2 win against Yale's Elizabeth Epstein and Hanna Yu on court one. Kurey and Woodard improve to 24-5 overall and 20-2 in dual matches this year.
The Bulldogs answered with an 8-3 win by Madeleine Hamilton and Amber Li against Tech's Jasmine Minor and Prokhnevska on court two.
The first point of the day came down to No. 3 doubles where the Jackets' pair of Elizabeth Kilborn and Muriel Wacker were taking on Yale's team of Courtney Amos and Annie Sullivan. The first four games were hard-fought as each went to deuce with the Jackets and Bulldogs splitting. Yale went on to win 8-2 and claim the first team point of the day.
Yale began singles play up 2-0 when Tech defaulted on court six.
The Jackets quickly evened the team score with dominating wins by Kurey on court four and Wacker on court five. Kurey topped Hanna Yu 6-1, 6-2 for her 20th singles win of the year. Wacker beat Amber Li 6-2, 6-2 to improve to 15-7 overall and has won seven of her last nine matches.
The Bulldogs edged ahead when 75th-ranked Elizabeth Epstein topped Tech's 98th-ranked Elizabeth Kilborn 6-2, 6-1 on court one. Woodard, ranked No. 88, battled to a 6-3, 7-5 win on court two to tie the team match at 3-3 before Prokhnevska clinched the Yellow Jacket victory.