ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – UCF’s No. 26 Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova won their first-round match in the NCAA Doubles Championships against St. Mary’s No. 32 Hind Abdelouahid and Mariia Kozyreva by a score of 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 10-6.
The win advances the Knights’ top pair to the round of 16. This victory also represents the first time a UCF doubles team has won a match in the NCAA Doubles Championships. Zeleva and Kuznetsova are just the second pair to ever reach the event for the Black and Gold.
The match began with Zeleva and Kuznetsova jumping out to a quick 4-1 lead in the first frame. Abdelouahid and Kozyreva slowly but surely made their way back into the first set as they won four straight games to take a 5-4 lead. The first set went to a tiebreaker where the Knights prevailed 7-6 (7-4).
The second set saw UCF trail the entire time. They had gone down 0-2 to start but gained some ground back midway through the second frame to trail 3-4. The comeback was not be enough as UCF couldn’t get an edge, forcing a third set.
In the NCAA Doubles Championships, the third set is played as a 10-point super tiebreak to decide the match. UCF put their foot on the gas and accelerated out of the gates. Zeleva and Kuznetsova gained an early 3-0 lead and kept a nice cushion throughout the set, leading Abdelouahid and Kozyreva by five at one point. The Knights would go up 9-4 before ultimately winning the third set super tiebreak 10-6.
The win gives UCF’s dynamic duo their fifteenth victory of the season and their fourth over a ranked opponent. Zeleva and Kuznetsova handed Abdelouahid and Kozyreva just their second loss of the season.
Kuznetsova participated in the NCAA Doubles Championships last season with Maria Martinez as they were the first doubles tandem to be part of the tournament in program history. They posted a 17-3 record in the regular season but were unable to secure a victory in the first round. With more experience behind her in her sophomore year, Kuznetsova teamed up with Zeleva as the pair earned the first NCAA Doubles Championships victory for UCF.
Zeleva and Kuznetsova will face UNC’s nationally seeded pair consisting of Makenna Jones and Cameron Morra. Their seed for the tournament is No. 5-8 and they sit at No. 12 in the Oracle/ITA doubles rankings. Jones and Morra were primarily the No. 2 doubles tandem for the Tarheels, picking up a 9-3 record there. They also boast a 5-0 record at the top doubles spot. Jones and Morra began the season ranked as the second-best pair in the nation before eventually falling into double digits on April 23. Their match will not start before 8 p.m. and will be one of six courts televised on the Tennis Channel.
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