CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- With a thrilling 4-3 victory against Tennessee on Friday, Georgia State became the first female program in school history to win in the NCAA tournament. Panther female teams had made eight previous appearances in NCAA play but none had won until Chaimaa Roudami won the third set at No. 6 singles Friday to clinch the deciding point.
The point was not lost on the team, which had several program firsts and historic moments this season prior to the NCAA tournament as well.
"We have talked about some things this season, some of the accomplishments this team has had and the different firsts," interim head coach Robin Stephenson said. "We’ve talked about the history that’s been made this year, so they knew coming in and took pride in it. They were motivated but that was just extra knowing and understanding what kind of legacy they could leave behind and how high they could set the bar."
Roudami, a junior from Morocco, sealed the win in stylish fashion, holding on to defeat Ambika Pande in three sets, the only match to go the distance on Friday. Roudami took the first set 6-3 and had an early 2-1 lead in the second before Pande battled back. Neither player went ahead by more than one set in the second, wtih Pande pulling out a 7-6 victory to force the tiebreaking set. Roudami got on top first at 1-0 in the third, and then it was back-and-forth, with ties at 2-2 and 3-3 before Roudami finally started to pull forward. She went ahead 4-3 and didn't look back, taking two of the final three sets to clinch the history win.
"Chaimaa really held her nerve. It was match point in the second set and she lost it, and then got tight, but she came back with a complete third set and it was incredible," Stephenson said. "She’s worked so hard all year. She was playing well in the third and really had the gameplan down. It was close but we told her if she stuck with it long enough she’d be successful. She held on and kept going for it. She had to keep playing and not be timid, and she stepped up to do that."
The team victory pushes Georgia State into the second round where it will face the winner of Friday's matchup between VCU and No. 7 national seed North Carolina, which is playing host to the regional. The Panthers will play at 3 p.m. ET Saturday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
Georgia State started on a strong note, but not in its typical fashion. The Panthers jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the doubles point without having to count on its duo of Abigail Tere-Apisah and Masa Grgan. The duo did not have to finish their match as GSU had already secured the point with wins at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles.
Tere-Apisah’s younger sister Marcia teamed with Tarani Kamoe to clinch the point with an 8-2 victory at No. 2 against Brittany Lindl and Victoria Olivarez. The freshman duo’s performance ended soon after Linn Timmermann and Chaimaa Roudami held on for an 8-5 victory against Joanna Henderson and Ambika Pande.
Once the Panthers moved into singles action, they jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and were on the verge of the upset with Abigail Tere-Apisah leading the charge. Tere-Apiisah, who earned All-America status two years ago and will again play in the NCAA singles and doubles Championships later this month, cruised to an easy win in the No. 1 singles slot where she now owns 28 wins in 2013-14. Facing another ranked opponent in No. 61 Eve Repic, Tere-Apisah cruised to a 6-2, 6-0 victory to give GSU a 2-0 lead. It was Tere-Apisah’s ninth victory against a top-75 opponent this season.
After overcoming a see-saw start at No. 3 singles, Timmerman took control late in the first set for a 6-4 victory and then sealed the Panthers’ third point with a dominating 6-1 win in the second. It was the ninth win in her past 10 completed matches.
All of the points in the first five singles matches came in straight sets as Tennessee then rallied back to win at Nos. 2, 4.