The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s tennis team was eliminated from the Southern Conference Tournament by No. 73 Samford this afternoon. The Mocs were shutout 4-0 in the semifinals at the Champions Club.
The match was much closer than the final score indicated since play stops once a team reaches four points. These two programs were very evenly paired, as seen in the 4-3 Samford win in last week’s regular season finale.
As with most tight duals, the doubles point is very important. Samford won the doubles last week, and again today it proved to swing the momentum in the match.
After dropping the first match at No. 3, the Mocs need two wins to take the doubles point. Senior Alexa Flynn and junior Kaylene Chadwell were up 4-3 in their No. 1 bout with Kristin Lewis and Emily Mallory.
Flynn and Chadwell broke serve at 4-3, but gave it right back. They broke again to go up 7-5 and closed out the win on their serve. That avenged an 8-3 loss in the previous meeting and set up the No. 2 bout as the decider.
Sophomores Kayla Jones and Katie Polk were up 7-4 against Yasmeen Ebada and Carita Moolman, but could not close out the win. Samford eventually battled back to take the match and the first point in a tiebreaker.
“That took a little wind out of our sails, but I think it did more to lift them up,” stated UTC head coach Jeff Clark. “You have to give Samford credit. We did not choke that No. 2 match away. They battled back and won it.”
Samford used that momentum to take the first set in five of the six singles matches. Two of those first set wins were in tiebreakers. The Bulldogs went up 2-0 when Jones lost to Stephanie N'tcha (6-2, 6-3) at No. 1. The Mocs fell further behind when Flynn dropped her No. 3 match to Ebada (6-3, 6-1).
Despite a 3-0 hole, Chattanooga was battling at every position. Sophomore Kelsey Coots won her first set at No. 4 while Polk was up 2-1 in the third at No. 6. Chadwell and junior Claire Mulyadi both lost their first sets in a tiebreaker, but were locked in close matches.
Mulyadi lost some ground to Mallory in the second frame and could not get it back. Mallory’s (7-6, 6-1) win at No. 5 closed out the match and sent the Bulldogs to tomorrow’s finals.
Chattanooga ends the season with an 18-5 overall record. It is the second straight season the Mocs have won 18 matches, the most since winning 21 in 1991. Chattanooga finished third in the league for the first time since 2002, won seven league matches for the first time since 2000 and advanced to the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament for the second time in three seasons.
Flynn is the lone senior on the Mocs roster, so UTC will return the core of its lineup. Chattanooga was 10-0 at home in the regular season and had five individuals honored on the All-SoCon team.
“If you look at all of the things we accomplished this year, there was definitely progress,” added Clark. “Winning today was the goal, but when you look back on it, we absolutely moved forward as a program.”
#73 Samford 4, Chattanooga 0
Apr 18, 2014 at Chattanooga, Tenn. (Champions Club)
1. Alexa Flynn/Kaylene Chadwell (UTC) def. Kristin Lewis/Emily Mallory (SAM) 8-5
2. Yasmeen Ebada/Carita Moolman (SAM) def. Kayla Jones/Katie Polk (UTC) 8-7 (6-4)
3. Stephanie N'tcha/Jessica Northcutt (SAM) def. Kelsey Coots/Claire Mulyadi (UTC) 8-2
1. Stephanie N'tcha (SAM) def. Kayla Jones (UTC) 6-2, 6-3
2. Kristin Lewis (SAM) vs. Kaylene Chadwell (UTC) 7-6 (8-6), 4-2, unfinished
3. Yasmeen Ebada (SAM) def. Alexa Flynn (UTC) 6-4, 6-1
4. Jessica Northcutt (SAM) vs. Kelsey Coots (UTC) 4-6, 5-4, unfinished
5. Emily Mallory (SAM) def. Claire Mulyadi (UTC) 7-6 (7-5), 6-1
6. Lauren Caballero (SAM) vs. Katie Polk (UTC) 6-1, 1-6, 1-2, unfinished
Samford 20-2; National ranking #73
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (1,3,5)