As the chilly April wind began to swallow Barksdale Stadium, the Tennessee women’s tennis team’s momentum from Wednesday’s victory over Alabama was quietly extinguished.
Taking on the Ole Miss Rebels in round two of the SEC Tournament, the Lady Vols were unable to overcome the onslaught put on by both the opposition and the weather.
“I don’t think any of us were thinking about whether it was cold or windy,” Gabby Schuck said. “We knew we had to battle and were willing to do whatever it took.”
Getting off to a quick start, the duo of Sadie Hammond and Schuck claimed their doubles match over Sabina Machalova and Tea Jandric, 6-3. Chelsea Sawyer and Elizabeth Profit followed that with a 4-6 loss on court five.
The Rebels claimed the doubles point when the tandem of Arianne Hartono and Alexa Bortles took down Kaitlin Staines and Ariadna Riley, 6-3.
“We gave ourselves chances to win the doubles point, we just didn’t get it done,” head coach Alison Ojeda said. “There’s a reason Ole Miss’s No. 1 team is ranked fifth in the country.”
As the sun began to set over downtown Knoxville, the Lady Vols attempted to claw their way on to the scoreboard with their SEC title hopes on the line.
Singles play would prove to be an uphill battle for Tennessee as well, as the Rebels began to build momentum. Ole Miss struck first once again with Machalova defeating Profit, 6-0, 6-2 on Court 2 to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead.
Tennessee would respond with Schuck claiming a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Bortles on Court 5, bringing the Lady Vols within one.
“Looking at the scoreboard motivates you to keep fighting,” Schuck said. “Momentum always shifts so no matter what, you have to try to put points on the board.”
The Rebels would quickly respond as Jandric overcome a late rally by Riley to claim a 6-0, 6-4 victory as the night sky began to settle over downtown.
Tennessee would pull within one when Staines took down Anna Vrbenska, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Court 4, the closest the Lady Vols had been since going down 1-0 following doubles.
Ole Miss would close the door on Tennessee when Tereza Janatova defeated Johanna Silva 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, sealing the 4-2 win for the Rebels.
Despite falling early in the tournament, the Lady Vols have relied on their team unity through much of the adversity they have faced this season as they seek to make a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re a very connected team and we all get along really well,” Schuck said. “We’re family and I think that has helped us a lot.”
The Lady Vols will now await their fate for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, but Ojeda feels good about her team’s chances going forward.
“I do think we’ll get in to the tournament and we’ve got three weeks to train for it,” Ojeda said. “We need to spend some time in the weight room and on the tennis court, as well as studying for finals.”