CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – In a grueling four-hour tightly-contested matchup, No. 32 Kentucky came up with a 4-2 victory over the No. 38 Columbia tennis team in the opening round of the NCAA Regionals on Friday.
Despite an injury during singles play, the Lions (16-5) gave the Wildcats (17-11) all they could handle. Trailing, 2-0, and with its season on the brink, each player rose to the occasion to force tiebreak after tiebreak and deciding sets.
No. 22 Bianca Sanon and Kanika Vaidya posted an 8-4 doubles victory in the first match to conclude, but UK took the final two doubles contests to earn the point. The Lions’ No. 2 pair of Tina Jiang and Crystal Leung suffered its first defeat in 16-matches.
In singles play, things looked bleak for Columbia after No. 1 singles player Kanika Vaidya was forced to retire due to injury while leading 4-3 in the first set.
Sanon trailed early in the first set, but dug deep to force a tiebreak, which she eventually won. The senior controlled the second frame off the bat, racing out to a 4-0 lead and went on for a 6-1 set win to get Columbia on the board.
In a first set almost identical to Sanon’s, Jiang was also forced to overcome an early deficit to get into a tiebreak situation, where the Bridgewater, New Jersey native prevailed. Jiang used that momentum to pick up a 6-3 triumph in the second for a straight-set victory to even the match, 2-2.
After dropping the first set, 6-4, No. 6 player Ioana Alecsiu came back from a 5-3 deficit in the second set to force yet another tiebreak. Alecsiu went ahead, 4-1, but the Wildcats’ Caitlin McGraw settled in and came from behind to claim the win.
Tiana Takenaga got off to a strong start in the opening set of her match against Kirsten Lewis in No. 5 action, claiming a 7-5 win. Lewis responded with a 6-3 win in the second and put the match away, 6-1, in the third to clinch the victory for the Wildcats.
In another barn-burner, No. 4 Crystal Leung did her part to extend the competition. Down a set, Leung fought back and evened the score with a tiebreak win in the second. In the third, Leung was down 4-2 before the completion of the No. 5 contest.
#32 Kentucky 4, #38 Columbia 2
Friday, May 9, 2014
Snyder Tennis Center
1. #22 Sanon/Vaidya (CU) def. #34 Witten/McGraw (UK) 8-4
2. #56 Sutjiadi/Ravita (UK) def. #44 Jiang/Leung (CU) 8-4
3. Morin-Kougoucheff/Lewis (UK) def. Takenaga/Alecsiu (CU) 8-4
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3*
1. #47 Nadia Ravita (UK) def. Kanika Vaidya (CU) 3-4, retired
2. Bianca Sanon (CU) def. #125 Aldila Sutjiadi (UK) 7-6(6), 6-1
3. Tina Jiang (CU) def. Kelsey Dieters (UK) 7-6(4), 6-3
4. Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff (UK) vs. Crystal Leung (CU) 7-5, 6-7(2), 4-2, DNF
5. Kirsten Lewis (UK) def. Tiana Takenaga (CU) 5-7, 6-3, 6-1
6. Caitlin McGraw (UK) def. Ioana Alecsiu (CU) 6-4, 7-6(4)
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3, 6, 5*