ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 25 UCF women’s tennis team is moving onto the American Athletic Conference championship for the first time in program history. They defeated the fourth seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane by a score of 4-0 in the semifinals.
“Rebeka and Marie did an amazing job going down 5-2, but they stayed in it and fought and didn’t lose beliefe that they could win it,” said head coach Bryan Koniecko, “It’s been tough like that with Tulsa all season long. That gave us some good momentum for singles play. I’m excited for our senior Nat, she deserves a shot at this thing, and she’ll get one tomorrow, but we can’t sit here and celebrate too long because we’ve got another good opponent tomorrow. We’ll have to play really well to win.”
The doubles point was a war between the two teams. The top-seeded Knights and Tulsa had faced each other two times prior to today’s match, so both sides knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The segment saw Tulsa jump out in front on court one where a top-20 doubles match was happening. In the end, No. 17 Martina Okalova and Vera Ploner topped No. 19 Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova by a count of 6-1. The Knights rebounded on court three as Natalia Serrano and Domenika Turkovic defeated Megan Hopton and Marina Davtyan 6-4. That was Serrano and Turkovic’s sixth straight doubles victory.
At the time of Serrano and Turkovic’s winner, UCF had their backs against the wall on court two, down 2-5. Marie Mattel and Rebeka Stolmar saw an opportunity and seized it, winning five consecutive games to win their match 7-5 and give the Knights the doubles point.
Singles play was relatively stress free compared to the intensity that doubles play saw. The Knights carried the momentum all the way through singles play, winning the first set on all six courts.
Winning quickly on court one was No. 46 Zeleva as she triumphed over No. 81 Okalova 6-2, 6-0. Zeleva is now 16-5 on the season and 8-5 against ranked opposition.
Finishing just moments after Zeleva was Mattel on court four. She topped Hopton 6-2, 6-3 to get the Knights to a 3-0 lead.
It would be Serrano who pulled through and clinched the match for the Knights. On court five, Serrano defeated Poppe 6-2, 6-2 to send the Knights to their first American Athletic Conference championship match in the conference’s sixth year of existence.
Picking up back to back sweeps, the Knights left three courts unfinished yesterday and today. Court two saw No. 82 Kuznetsova battling with No. 120 Matoula. Kuznetsova went down 0-4 early in the first set and won six straight games, taking the set 6-4. Their second set would go unfinished as Kuznetsova led that 3-2. Another comeback story was taking place on court six as Nandini Sharma was down 2-5 and came back to win her first set 7-5. The second set would be tied 1-1 against Davtyan. Court three saw a tiebreaker that went the way of Stolmar, winning it 7-6 (8-6) against Ploner. The two barely got to begin their second set before the match was clinched.
The Knights picked up their twenty-first win of the season as they defeated Tulsa. This is one shy of tying the highest win total the Knights have ever had in a season.
The last time the Knights won a conference championship was back in 2002 when UCF was a part of the A-Sun. They’ll look to get their first championship as part of the American Athletic Conference.
The Knights will cross paths with their long time rivals in the AAC Championship tomorrow. The match will take place at either 9 or 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday. Keep a look out for a preview article later tonight.
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