ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 26 UCF women’s tennis team picked up their fifteenth consecutive victory on Sunday afternoon as they defeated No. 34 Illinois by a score of 4-1.
“Today was another big match on our schedule that we’ve had circled for a while,” said head coach Bryan Koniecko, “I thought we did really good in doubles and an incredible job in the first 30-40 minutes in singles. Then Illinois did what they do very well and fought back in some second sets and made it very tough for us to close the match.”
Doubles play began on a high note for the Knights. No. 31 Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova were in sync from the start. They took down Jaclyn Switkes and Sasha Belaya by a score of 6-1 at the top doubles spot. UCF’s dynamic duo now sits at 11-3 on the season with three straight wins.
The next two doubles courts were close before Marie Mattel and Rebeka Stolmar pulled away from Asuka Kawai and Mia Rabinowitz winning by a score of 6-3. Court three was tight by went unfinished as Natalia Serrano and Domenika Turkovic were a point up on Dani Pedraza Novak and Emilee Duong in a tiebreaker 6-6 (1-0).
UCF dominate the first sets of singles play, winning five of the six. No. 84 Kuznetsova was the first Knight to win as she dominated Switkes 6-0, 6-0 on court two. Kuznetsova is now tied with five former Knights for sixth place in single season victories with 22. That number comes from her fall 2018 victories (10) and her spring-season victories (12) combined.
Turkovic picked up the next singles point for the Black and Gold as she took down Pedraza Novak 6-2, 6-2 on court six. Turkovic has won four matches in a row and sits at 6-4 on the season.
The only blip on the radar for the Knights came on court one where No. 54 Kawai topped No. 41 Zeleva 6-1, 6-3.
After Illinois took a point back, it seemed as if all remaining courts were destined for three sets. Stolmar had other ideas though. After winning the first set 6-1, Stolmar fell behind Rabinowitz 2-5 in set two. Unphased, Stolmar clawed her way back to tie the set at 5-5. From there, the two went into a tiebreaker where Stolmar won 7-5 to clinch the match for UCF.
Play ended when the match was clinched. Illinois had fought back to grab second sets on the other two courts in play. Mattel had pulled ahead of Belaya in the third set as the two ended at 6-2, 1-6, 3-2. On court five, Serrano ended in front of Duong in their third set 6-3, 0-6, 3-1.
The victory was Koniecko’s fiftieth win as the head coach of UCF. He is the fastest head coach in program history to get to win number 50. He and assistant coach Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar have built a remarkable program since their first season back in 2016-2017 and now sit with a record of 50-16, good enough for a .758 winning percentage.
Sunday’s victory also wraps up a perfect 11-match home stand for UCF. In that time, the Knights defeated four conference opponents, topped four ranked teams and outscored opponents 58-12.
The Knights will hit the road and head down to FIU for a match on Sunday at 1 p.m. This will be UCF’s first match away from home since the ITA Kickoff Weekend on the final weekend of January.
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