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UCF Edged By Pepperdine in Sweet 16
May 11, 2019
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MALIBU, Calif. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 23 UCF women’s tennis team fell in the sweet 16 to the No. 6 Pepperdine Waves by a final score of 4-2. The Knights see their magical season come to a close.

“We played a heck of a doubles point today. We looked incredible from the start,” said head coach Bryan Koniecko, “Nat and Domenika looked incredible and played an incredible match. Going into singles, we were there. I thought we were about two or three points on a couple of courts from having that match roll our way. The match was there for the taking, I hope it’s a learning experience going forward.”

The doubles point began with UCF dominating on court three as Natalia Serrano and Domenika Turkovic cruised against Adrijana Lekaj and Dzina Milovanovic, winning 6-0. Pepperdine would strike back, on court one, as No. 41 Anastasia Iamachkine and Jessica Failla topped No. 26 Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova 6-2.

With the doubles segment even at one court all, the doubles point came down to court two. Here, Rebeka Stolmar and Marie Mattel held a 5-2 lead. Pepperdine’s No. 83 Ashley Lahey and Daria Kuczer fought back to even their match at 5-5. From there, UCF took the final doubles court by a count of 7-5 to give the Black and Gold the early advantage.

The Knights were only able to gather two of six first sets early on. There were a few critical points that the Waves were able to capitalize on to give them that first set edge.

Quickly after all first sets went final, Serrano grabbed a singles point on court five, winning 6-3, 6-2. The win leaves Serrano with an incredible 16-2 record in singles this season. She’ll wrap up her remarkable four-year career with a singles record of 76-34 and a doubles record of 69-43. Her impact was felt just as much off the court as on. Serrano as the team captain led a young group of Knights to their best season ever. Serrano will sit in third place at UCF for all-time singles victories.

From there, Pepperdine took control. Stolmar fought against the gritty No. 53 Failla but was edged 6-3, 6-4. Moments after, court four fell as Mattel was defeated by Milovanovic 7-5, 6-2 to tie the match at 2-2. The Waves took another court to go up 3-2 as No. 102 Lekaj overtook No. 82 Kuznetsova, winning 7-5, 6-1.

With two courts left, the Knights had a chance to rally. Nandini Sharma and No. 40 Zeleva were both in tight matches at the start of their third sets. The matches were up for grabs, but in the end, court one fell as No. 37 Lahey defeated No. 40 Zeleva 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Sharma’s match was the only one to go unfinished as she was trailing Iamachkine 1-6, 6-3, 3-4.

The Knights wrap up their most accomplished season ever. It was a season of many firsts. UCF made it past the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. It was the first time the Black and Gold had won the American Athletic Conference, their first conference title in 16 seasons. UCF also achieved their highest win total in a single season, posting a 24-4 record. That mark tops their previous best win total of 22 which they got to twice, first in 1995 and then in 1997.

“It’s tough to think too far into next season, but obviously this season I’m most proud of is how far we’ve come,” said Konieckco, “We’ve come a long way since January. With adding two starters in January, the camaraderie needed time to grow. We didn’t have the best weekend at ITA National Indoors, but the most impressive thing was our group coming together and making it a point to want to get this team to this level. They’re conference champions, sweet 16 participants and were minutes away from reaching the elite eight. I don’t think a lot of people in the country would have thought that.

A few Knights propelled their way into the record books this season. Kuznetsova will go down as the third winningest singles player in a single season, picking up 26 from the fall and spring semesters. Serrano and Stolmar will be tied for sixth at 22 this season.

Sharma will climb onto the single-season winning percentage list in ninth place, posting an .857 winning percentage (18-3 record). Serrano will also register on that list in a tie for sixth place, as she went 16-2, earning an .889 winning percentage.

Serrano ends her run for the Black and Gold with a career singles winning percentage of .691, good enough to be in tenth place on the list.

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