PADUCAH, Ky. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s tennis team showed its grit today, rallying from a 3-2 deficit to win the final two matches and take away the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup against No. 4 seed SIU Edwardsville 4-3 this afternoon.
The Skyhawks (9-10, 5-5 OVC) kicked off the afternoon by notching the doubles point after senior Ivon Simic and Sarah Candeloro posted an 8-4 victory over SIUE’s No. 1 doubles pair. With doubles play tied at 1-1, Jessica Silva and Katie McCall sealed the early advantage with an 8-5 victory to give the Skyhawks the doubles point and an early 1-0 lead heading into singles play.
SIUE (12-9, 7-3 OVC) would strike first in singles play with a pair of 6-4 sets at No. 3, evening the match at 1-1. The match would be tied for just moments however as All-OVC second team selection Burcu Tari gave the Skyhawks the 2-1 advantage with a pair of decisive victories with sets of 6-4 and 6-1 at No. 4.
The Cougars would strike for the next two points at No. 1 and 5, knocking off Simic and Silva with identical 6-4, 6-3 sets.
With the Cougars on the doorstep of the match victory, the Skyhawks showed their resilience, turning to both a senior and freshman to turn the tide. Facing her potential final match as a Skyhawk, McCall let her experience and smooth play speak for itself, picking up a 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) victory to even the match at 3-3.
Going into the final point, the Skyhawks needed their OVC Freshman of the Year and All-OVC first team selection Hitomi Naito to remain perfect on the season to push the Skyhawks into the next round. Naito dropped the first set 5-7 before rallying for back-to-back set victories of 6-4 and 6-3 to win the point and the match. The victory was Naito’s 14th consecutive victory, moving the freshman to 16-3 on the season.
“We got everything out of this year that we possibly could have as we squeaked every little point and match out of this team,” said UT Martin coach Dennis Taylor. “If we did not have senior leadership from Katie and Ivon after we lost Tamara, they could have very easily packed it in but they pushed this team to a high level of play. For Katie to come back after dropping a tough decision to the same girl earlier in the season just shows you her grit. I am just so proud of this team and glad to still be in it as we get ready for a very tough Murray State squad.”
The Skyhawks will look to continue their hot play tomorrow, Friday, April 18 when they face off against No. 1 seed Murray State for the second time in a week. Action from the Larry J. Heflin Tennis Center in Paducah, Ky. is scheduled to get underway at 2 p.m.