Barry captures SSC championship, marking school's 50th conference title
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Call it a milestone mark. That's what Barry women's tennis team achieved in winning its fourth consecutive Sunshine State Conference Championship in Saturday's 5-1 win against Saint Leo.
It marked the university's 50th SSC title in all sports.
"It feels great," Bucs freshman Elisabeth Abanda said after beating Coraline Pesenti 6-0, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. "When you expect it too much, your level goes down. We knew Saint Leo would show up."
That the seventh-ranked Lions (17-5) did in causing fits for the second-ranked Buccaneers (24-0) in pairs play. After Abanda and Emma Onila, the 11th-ranked doubles team in Division II, beat Maria Benkirane and Pauline Helgesson 8-4 at the No. 1 flight in a match the Bucs had to come back from early, Saint Leo kept Barry on its heels in the other two matches.
Karina Goia and Isabela Miro were down 4-3 at No. 3 doubles to Pesenti and Adrianna Daszkiewicz, but Miro hammered away a winner at the net to tie it at 4-4. The Bucs tandem won another game to pull ahead, but the Lions duo bounced back to take a 7-6 lead.
Both teams swapped the next two games, giving Saint Leo an 8-7 lead. But Goia and Miro won the 16th game to send the match to a tiebreaker. Barry's pair charged to a 5-2 lead before putting the Lions duo away 7-2 in the tiebreaker. That gave the Bucs a 2-0 lead.
Linda Fritschken and Kimmy Twelker trailed 4-1 to Emily Singleton and Laura Kemkes at No. 2 doubles, but the Bucs duo won three of the next four games to pull within 5-4. Fritschken and Twelker tied the match at 6-6 before the Lions pair won the next game. When Fritschken pounded away a ball at the net after a long rally in the 14th game, the Bucs knotted the match at 7-7.
Singleton and Kemkes won the next game to move within one of clinching, but Fritschken ripped a backhand down the line to send the match into a tiebreaker. But Kemkes and Singleton withstood the Bucs duo in the match in the tiebreaker, winning 7-4 to cut the deficit to 2-1.
"I think we were all strong in doubles," Abanda said. "We lost just one doubles match in three days, so that's pretty good."
The one loss, of course, was decided in a tiebreaker.
Onila, ranked 41st in the nation, delivered Barry's first singles victory when she made quick work of Helgesson to win the No. 2 flight 6-0, 6-2. That moved the Bucs within two points of clinching.
Twelker, who labored through another physical battle following an arduous doubles match, put the Buccaneers ahead 4-1 with a 6-0, 6-3 No. 5 victory against Singleton.
"I was fighting some injuries, and I'm constantly in a lot of pain," Twelker said. "I could hardly walk after doubles. [Head coach] Avi [Kigel] told me to give my best. I gave my best, and then I won my match. It feels awesome. I didn't expect that my match was that important."
Still, Barry needed another victory to secure another league crown. In many ways, it was a matter of semantics. The Bucs were up a set in each of the other singles matches. Akemi Maehama won the opening set 6-2 against Phoebe Di Leo at No. 6. Goia claimed the first set 6-3 in the No. 4 flight with Benkirane. Fritschken, ranked 33rd in the country, won the first set against Daszkiewicz 6-2.
But Abanda, the 28th-ranked singles player in the country, rose to the occasion, putting away the 37th-ranked Pesenti in straight sets.
"It was a whole completely different world for me," Abanda said, despite coming off the high from the doubles win. "I had played against this girl before, so I knew how to play her. This match, I was really patient with my game. That's what I was pleased with, and being able to control the match."