ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 30 UCF women’s tennis team defeated the No. 48 Florida Gators 4-3 in a match that went down to the wire on College MatchDay at the UCF Collegiate Tennis Center at the USTA National Campus. Sunday’s win was the seventh in a row for the Knights.
UCF performed well under the bright lights of College MatchDay, an event that was nationally televised on the Tennis Channel and brought over 1,200 spectators to the match. There was no better time for the Knights to get their first ever victory over the Gators.
“I’m just so happy for them,” said head coach Bryan Koniecko, “It’s a big win for our program, its been a lot of work with our team, Cristina, our assistant coach, has done an incredible job working hard in helping push them hard every day. In the summer, we ask the girls to play 11 months of tennis and they do it. All of that is for moments like this.”
The match started with the Gators pulling to a quick 6-1 win on doubles court three. Here, Anastasia Kharitonov and Marlee Zein got the best of Natalia Serrano and Nandini Sharma. The Knights struck back as No. 22 Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova took down Victoria Emma and McCartney Kessler on court one by a score of 6-4. The top duo for UCF remains perfect, moving to 8-0 on the season. Florida would take court two a few moments later to take the doubles point. The final score there was 6-3, as Ida Jarlskog and Tsveta Dimitrova handed Rebeka Stolmar and Marie Mattel their first loss as a pair.
UCF would rebound from losing the doubles point by grabbing two singles points. Serrano was the first to finish on court five as she bested Dimitrova 6-3, 6-2. Stolmar un-tied the match on court three where she topped Zein 6-4, 6-1.
Florida would get right back into the match as they grabbed their first singles point on court four. A battle of two ranked individuals ended in a 6-4, 6-2 victory for No. 52 Emma over No. 119 Mattel.
At this point, everyone in the venue had a feeling that this one could very well end up needing all seven points to be played out to decide a winner.
The Knights again would pull out in front, as Kuznetsova won her match against No. 33 Kessler 6-2, 7-6 (7-5). Kuznetsova had to pull off some incredible shots to win in the tiebreaker which saw her tied with Kessler at 1-1, 3-3, and 5-5.
This left the Knights with a 3-2 advantage with courts one and six still in play. Court one was the first one to finish, as a battle of two top-30 singles players had to settle their match in three sets. No. 12 Jarlskog eventually edged No. 29 Zeleva 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. With the match now tied at three, it would come down to court six to decide this in-state battle.
Court six saw Sharma and Kharitonov in a duel that went to three sets. Kharitonov took the first set 6-4 while Sharma claimed set number two 6-3. With set three deciding the match, Sharma went up early 2-1. Kharitonov battled back to eventually take a 4-3 lead. Sharma fought hard to try and re-gain the advantage, but saw Kharitonov take a 5-4 lead. Sharma didn’t let this get to her though as she came back in the tenth game with authority and rode the momentum to a 7-5 victory.
After playing three matches in four days, the Knights will have a week without match action. Yale will come to town on March 3 at 11 a.m.
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