MALIBU, Calif. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 23 UCF women’s tennis team is set for their sweet 16 matchup which will take place against the nationally-seeded No. 6 Pepperdine Waves on Friday at 4 p.m. eastern time. The Knights have reached the sweet 16 for the first time ever; it will also be the first time the two teams have ever met. The road trip to Pepperdine is the longest in the Bryan Koniecko era.
Pepperdine swept their way to the sweet 16, defeating Fairfield and No. 17 California 4-0. Their No. 1 singles player, Ashley Lahey has posted a 12-4 record and is one of three ranked singles players on the team. Lahey sits at No. 37 while Jessica Failla checks in at No. 53 and Adrijana Lekaj is ranked No. 102.
With Marie Mattel’s win on court four in her last match, all six Knight singles-starters have 15 wins or more. Valeriya Zeleva and Nandini Sharma lead the team with 18 wins each. UCF’s doubles tandems all have 10 victories or more this season.
A big factor of the upcoming match could lie in the doubles point. UCF has a match record of 21-1 when they win the doubles segment. Throughout the season, the Knights have compiled a 22-5 record in the doubles session, good enough for an .815 winning percentage. Even when the Knights have lost the doubles point, they have still fared decent, putting up a 3-2 mark.
Pepperdine boasts two ranked doubles duos, Anastasia Iamachkine and Failla check in as the nation’s No. 41 pair while Lahey and Daria Kuczer make up the No. 86 pair after just sneaking into the latest Oracle/ITA doubles rankings.
In their last match, the Knights mounted a comeback for the ages against the No. 11 Seminoles in the doubles point. Courts one and three for UCF trailed 1-5 quickly in their matches while court two was tied for the majority of the time. Court three began to catch up, bringing the score back to 4-5 before ultimately falling 4-6. Court two then was won by the Knight as Mattel and Rebeka Stolmar won their eighth straight match as a tandem and improved their record to 12-1 at the No. 2 position. This set up a thriller of a match on court one, as No. 26 Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova came all the way back from 1-5 down to beat the nation’s No. 21 nation 7-5. This was the edge the Knights needed to pull off the upset.
UCF has already set a program record for wins this season with 24, topping their previous best of 22 wins in 1995 and 1997. They’ll look to reach the quarter-century mark for the first time with a win over Pepperdine. A win would advance the Knights to the Elite Eight, which would be played on their home courts at the UCF Collegiate Tennis Center at the UCF National Campus.
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