As dark clouds began to settle over the Goodfriend Tennis Center on Thursday, the rain was unable to put out the fire that the Tennessee Lady Vols displayed.
After opening the season on a 13-match win streak, the Tennessee women’s tennis team had lost its spark as of late, losing seven of their last eight matches.
Looking to get back on track against the 15th ranked Auburn Tigers, the Lady Vols had their work cut out for them against a team that had won five of their last seven.
Auburn opened up the match by taking the first game in doubles, with Elizabeth Profit and Chelsea Sawyer falling to the duo of Jaeda Daniel and Madeline Meredith by a score of 6-3. Sadie Hammond and Gabby Schuck answered by taking the match on court two, 6-4.
“Our team came out with an unbelievable amount of energy and excitement,” head coach Alison Ojeda said. “In order for us to get to that next level, we have to let ourselves play big in big time moments.”
Ariadna Riley and Kaitlin Staines secured the doubles point by defeating Alizee Michaud and Taylor Russo in an 8-6, 7-6 tiebreaker match that caught the attention of members in the audience.
“I think that was some of the best tennis I’ve played,” Staines said. “I found my way a little bit after lacking a bit of confidence.”
In singles play, the Lady Vols were just as effective, controlling the momentum for nearly the entire match.
Hammond opened up the singles round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Michaud, with Profit dropping her singles match to Daniel by a score of 6-1, 6-3.
Schuck, who was successful during doubles, lost her singles match to Russo by a score of 2-6, 4-6, with Staines overcoming an opening game loss to claim court four’s match, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Attempting to make a rally late, the Tigers evened the score at 2-2 before Tennessee recorded the match’s final two scores.
Johanna Silva’s tiebreaker victory over Auburn’s Georgie Axon on court six proved to be the final blow as the Lady Vols took the match, 4-2.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Silva said. “It was about time we won after every match was super close. This time, all the work paid off.”
The win marked Tennessee’s first since February 25, when they defeated Florida Gulf Coast, 4-1.
Ojeda, who is now in her second season as coach of the Lady Vols, said the victory could provide a spark of confidence moving forward.
“It provides massive momentum for us moving forward,” Ojeda said. “You have to find that neutral zone where you just play and let yourself be free, staying encouraged even with some losses.”
With seven matches remaining before tournament play, the Lady Vols rank next-to-last in the SEC standings with a conference record of 1-7, but Ojeda doesn’t feel that will affect the team moving forward.
“It takes just one win for us to know that we can do this, and play with some of the best teams in the country”