MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s tennis team might have let visiting Ohio Valley Conference rival Murray State win the conference’s regular season crown with a 5-2 setback, but the two Skyhawk wins proved to be enough as the Skyhawks clinched the No. 5 seed in next week’s OVC Tournament.
The Skyhawks (8-10, 5-5 OVC) got off on a strong foot in doubles play as Ivon Simic and Sarah Candeloro knocked off the No. 1 twin pair of Eleonore Tchakarova and Verginie Tchakarova with an 8-4 decision, giving the Skyhawks an early lead in doubles play. The lead would be short lived however, as the Racers picked up wins at No. 2 and 3 by winning their respective tie-breakers for the doubles point.
The Racers (14-5, 9-1 OVC) would open singles play on a mission, winning four consecutive matches to ultimately give the visitors not only the match, but a share of the OVC regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in next week’s OVC Tournament.
The Skyhawks would not roll over to the OVC champions, turning to their standout freshmen for a pair of victories. Hitomi Naito knocked off No. 2 Carla Suga with a 7-5, 7-5 victory. The victory is the freshman’s 15th of the season, currently sitting at 15-3 and on a 13 match winning streak. Fellow classmate Burcu Tari would go on to end the day by defeating Megan Blue (6-3, 6-3) for her sixth consecutive victory, moving to 15-3 on the year.
“We lost today but we had several close matches and pulled out two wins,” said UT Martin coach Dennis Taylor. “Those two wins gave us the fifth seed at the tournament this weekend. Our freshmen have really been playing well. Burcu and Hitomi are both 15-3 and Hitomi is on a 13 match winning streak. With just a little luck we might just upset a few teams this weekend.”
UT Martin will open the OVC Tournament on Thursday, April 17 at 2 p.m. against No. 4 SIU Edwardsville. The Skyhawks dropped their earlier matchup against the Cougars 4-3 on the road. The three-day tournament will take place at the Heflin Tennis Center in Paducah, Ky.