Feb. 8, 2009

Courtesy of Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – For the second time in just over a week, the No. 22 University of Tennessee women’s tennis team (4-1) was able to edge out an extremely hard-fought victory over the 29th-ranked University of Virginia (4-2), winning 5-2 in a marathon match on Sunday afternoon at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center in Knoxville, Tenn. The Lady Volunteers won the doubles point for the third time this year and claimed victories on the first, second, fifth and sixth singles courts to win the match which lasted five hours and 22 minutes.


The victory improved UT Co-Head Coach Mike Patrick’s career record in home openers to an impressive 21-1, while fellow head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick’s mark in those contests is now 11-1.


“This was just an exciting match between two really talented teams,” Patrick said. “The atmosphere was great today and the fans really made an impact on the match. Both teams left everything they had out on the court and we were fortunate to come away with the victory. Hopefully, we can keep building on this and continue to improve each and every day.


“I was extremely proud of our team’s effort today,” Patrick said. “They refused to give up and just kept fighting until the very end. It came down to the final two matches and we were lucky enough to have two experienced upperclassmen in those spots. Zsófia (Zubor) and Sam (Orlin) really came through for us.”


Unlike its match last week, the Big Orange was able to come away with the doubles point to take the initial lead of the contest. The newly formed duo of junior Caitlin Whoriskey and freshman Natalie Pluskota looked strong in its first match together, easily dispatching the No. 32-rated pairing of Jennifer Stevens and Emily Fraser, 8-2, on center court.


Just moments later, UT clinched the all-important doubles point on court three where the team of junior Zsófia Zubor and sophomore Maria Sorbello tallied an 8-3 triumph over the Cavalier combo of Maggie Yahner and Karoline Steiro.


Although the outcome had already been decided, a hard-fought match ensued at the second position between the Tennessee tandem of sophomores Jennifer Meredith and Rosalía Alda and the UVa duo of Neela Vaez and Amanda Rales. Neither squad gained more than a single point advantage for the entire contest, which was eventually won by the Cavaliers in a tiebreaker, 8-7 (4).


“We tried out some new doubles combinations today, and I was very pleased with the results,” Patrick said. “All three of our teams played smart and showed some good chemistry.”


Virginia came roaring out of the gates in singles play, however, regaining the lead with a pair of quick wins. On the third court, Lindsey Hardenbergh got UVa on the scoreboard and tied the match at 1-1, defeating Alda in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2. The 82nd-ranked Fraser then tallied a 6-1, 6-3, triumph over Meredith at the fourth slot in the lineup to put UT in the hole by a point.


The Lady Vols were not going to go away that easily, however, using wins on the top two courts to regain the lead at 3-2. After dropping her initial set to No. 42 Stevens, Whoriskey took her game to another level. The East Sandwich, Mass., native, ranked 92nd in the nation, proceeded to cruise to victory, dropping just two games the rest of the way, en route to a 3-6, 6-0, 6-2, win.


With the match now tied at two-all, Pluskota put the Orange and White back on top by winning a hard-fought battle with her opponent on court two. Playing in the first home match of her collegiate career, the lifelong Lady Vol fan from Newnan, Ga., fought off a second-set surge by Rales to emerge victorious, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.


“Natalie is a very talented player and she showed that today,” Patrick said. “She has unlimited potential and will only continue to improve as the season goes on. The harder she works, the better she will be.”


Needing just one more point to finish off the match, all eyes turned to courts five and six where senior Samantha Orlin and Zubor were engaged in hard-fought contests against Karoline Steiro and Vaez, respectively. At first, it looked as if Orlin would clinch the win for the Lady Vols as she had won her first set, 6-4, and was leading convincingly in the second. Steiro had other ideas, however, fighting off three match-point attempts and rallying from two points down to win  the second frame.


In fact, it was Zubor, who had dropped her initial set, that picked up the match-clinching win for Tennessee. The native Hungarian battled back to tally a gutsy, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, triumph over Vaez to give UT its fourth win of the season and second of the year over the Cavaliers. Just minutes later, Orlin was able to finish off her opponent as well, downing Steiro, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.


“Both Zsófia and Sam are fighters,” Patrick said. “They really grinded it out today and did what they needed to do in order to get the win.’


The Orange and White will have almost two weeks off from competitive action before returning to the courts on Fri., Feb. 20, when it welcomes No. 30 Indiana to Rocky Top at 4 p.m. Just two days later, UT will take on 72nd-rated Yale at Noon at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.



1. No. 92 Caitlin Whoriskey (Tennessee) def. No. 42 Jennifer Stevens (Virginia) – 3-6, 6-0, 6-2

2. Natalie Pluskota (Tennessee) def. Amanda Rales (Virginia) – 6-1, 4-6, 6-2

3. Lindsey Hardenbergh (Virginia) def. Rosalía Alda (Tennessee) – 6-0, 6-2

4. No. 82 Emily Fraser (Virginia) def. Jennifer Meredith (Tennessee) – 6-1, 6-3

5. No. 77 Samantha Orlin (Tennessee) def. Karoline Steiro (Virginia) – 6-4, 5-7, 6-4

6. Zsófia Zubor (Tennessee) def. Neela Vaez (Virginia) – 2-6, 7-5, 6-3


1. Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (Tennessee) def. No. 32 Jennifer Stevens/Emily Fraser (Virginia) – 8-2

2. Neela Vaez/Amanda Rales (Virginia) def. Rosalía Alda/Jennifer Meredith (Tennessee) – 8-7 (4)

3. Maria Sorbello/Zsófia Zubor (Tennessee) def. Maggie Yahner/Karoline Steiro (Virginia) – 8-3