After finding success on the road to begin the 2018 spring season, the Tennessee women’s tennis team was called back to Knoxville on Saturday for another test.
Sitting at 2-0 with wins against Old Dominion (4-3) and William & Mary, the Lady Vols had yet to play on their home court. That changed on Saturday, when they faced down a doubleheader at the Goodfriend Tennis Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, with matches against Memphis at 11 a.m. and ETSU at 3:30 p.m.
“It was great to be back home,” head coach Alison Ojeda said. “But it was a little different. I’m not sure if we were nervous to play in front of a home crowd, but it was a little bit different.”
Tennessee’s nervousness didn’t transfer to the scoreboard in its first match against Memphis, though, with the Lady Vols losing just one match on their way to a 6-1 victory over the Tigers.
Doubles play opened the match, with the team of Sadie Hammond and Gabby Schuck getting the first victory for Tennessee against the Memphis duo of Bente/Wind, defeating them 6-2. Though the Lady Vols started doubles play on a high note, the team of Tenika McGiffin and Chelsea Sawyer lost their match against the Memphis team of Sullivan/Cao, 6-3.
In order to take an early 1-0 lead, freshman Kaitlin Staines, competing in her first action as a Lady Vol in Knoxville, and sophomore Aridna Riley had to face the team of Sohn/Cao. After falling behind three games to one, Staines and Riley forced a tiebreaker and eventually took the match 7-6 (2) to give Tennessee a 1-0 lead versus the Tigers.
Tennessee’s first result in singles play was a victory, as Hammond took down Hanna Sohn of Memphis in two sets (6-3, 6-4). Sophomore Johanna Silva’s match was the next to wrap up, as she defeated Memphis’s Claire Sullivan 6-4, 6-3, to give Tennessee a 3-0 lead.
Staines and McGiffin then beat Katherine Cao and Josephine Cao, respectively, to improve to 5-0. The Lady Vols’ first loss wouldn’t come until Laura Bente of Memphis downed Elizabeth Profit, needing an extra set to give Memphis its first victory of the day.
With the score sitting at 5-1, redshirt sophomore Gabby Schuck cruised to a victory against Anki Wind, 7-5, 7-5.
The first serve of the second round of Tennessee’s doubleheader against the ETSU Buccaneers came at 3:30.
Schuck and Hammond gained Tennessee its first set victory in doubles, downing Markesini and Pereira 6-2. It did not take long for the Lady Vols to gain their second set victory, this time coming from the rackets of Profit and McGiffin, who beat Morales and Pascual-Larrinaga.
With those two set victories, Tennessee took an early 1-0 match lead, and with momentum left over from the earlier victory over Memphis, the Lady Vols were feeling confident.
“I think you get the momentum going and get some of the nerves out,” Schuck said, “You play a good match, and you just continue that on, and every match gives you more confidence.”
Schuck’s play stayed strong as she continued her dominant streak to pick up Tennessee’s first singles victory, cruising past ETSU’s Melissa Esguerra in two games, 6-0, 6-0. She contributed her hot hand on the day to support from her teammates.
“I love watching my teammates,” Schuck said, “They encourage me, I encourage them.”
Sawyer was next to pick up a victory for Tennessee, posting a 6-0, 6-0 match victory to give the Lady Vols a 3-0 lead.
Silva’s victory against Melissa Esguerra of ETSU (6-3,6-2) would bring the match to an abrupt end as Tennessee improved to 4-0 overall off of a 4-0 victory against the Buccaneers.
“To be honest, we’ve got quite a few things we need to work on,” Ojeda said, “So we’ll talk about that and figure out how to get better for Friday.”
Tennessee will be in action again on Feb. 2, as the Lady Vols are set to face UT Martin at home in another doubleheader.