ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 25 UCF women’s tennis team won their first conference championship as part of the American Athletic Conference by sweeping their rivals the USF Bulls by a score of 4-0. It is the Knights’ first conference title since they won in 2002 as part of the A-Sun.
“I’m just so happy for them, especially for our senior going away, you want her to leave the right way and we did that this year,” said head coach Bryan Koniecko, “USF pushed us back a little bit late in the match, but we’re happy we clinched it. I’m just ready for our next practice and hopefully the culture we set this year continues on.”
UCF was in control of the doubles point early on court one as No. 19 Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova cruised against Vanja Klaric and Nicole Dzenga 6-1. Court three was next to finish as Natalia Serrano and Domenika Turkovic continued their hot streak, beating Laura Pellicer Perell and Janvhi Clark 6-3. Serrano and Turkovic have teamed up to win eight straight doubles matches. With the doubles point sealed for the Knights, court two went unfinished as Marie Mattel and Rebeka Stolmar were tied with Ana Roman Dominguez and Amelie Boy 3-3.
Singles play went the way of the Knights early on as they won four of the first six sets. The momentum stayed with the Knights all the way to the finish line. First to clinch and to do so in a hurry was Nandini Sharma on court six. She defeated Alexandria Mjos by a count of 6-2, 6-0.
The score stayed that way for a bit, before it came down to two match points at once for the championship. No. 46 Zeleva topped No. 56 Ana Roman-Dominguez 6-2, 6-2 on court one. That was Zeleva's second win over a ranked opponent in the conference tournament.
Less than two minutes later, the Knights stormed the courts and mobbed No. 82 Kuznetsova as she defeated Klaric 6-1, 6-2 to give UCF their first ever conference championship in the American.
The conference championship is the sixth overall and the first the Knights have won since 2002. They won four straight from 1997-2000 prior to that. The Knights are looking to start a dynasty similar to the one of the past and they have the pieces to do it, which includes a core of six newcomers this season.
On top of all that, the Knights picked up win No. 22 on the season, tying their highest win total ever achieved. UCF had won 22 matches twice in their history, coming in 1995 and 1997.
The Knights did not lose a point through their magical run to the conference championship. They swept Memphis, Tulsa and USF to get themselves to the top. The win gives them four straight victories headed into the NCAA tournament, which they are guaranteed to be a part of with their conference title.
As for the rest of the match, three courts went unfinished. Stolmar fell in the first set against Pellicer Perello 5-7 but rallied in the second set to end at 5-2 on court three. Mattel won her first set 6-3 and was locked up 4-4 in the second set with Amelie Boy on court four. Serrano dropped a tight tiebreaker in the first set 6-7 (5-7) but led the second set 2-1.
During the post-match ceremonies, Zeleva was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Zeleva went 2-0 in singles, defeating two ranked opponents in straight sets. Paired with Kuznetsova, they went 1-1 in doubles.
The Knights will await their NCAA Championship Tournament placement, as they have automatically qualified with their conference championship victory.
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