Tech’s women’s tennis team, currently ranked No. 6 in the nation, went on the road last week for three road matchups. After pulling out a narrow 4-3 victory against No. 26 Vanderbilt on Wednesday, the Jackets handily defeated ACC foes Wake Forest and North Carolina State, 7-0 and 6-1 respectively, over the weekend. At 13-5, including a 6-1 mark in conference play, the girls are warming up at the right time, as they are riding a five-match win streak with only two weeks of regular season play left before the ACC Championships.
Facing Vanderbilt in Nashville, the host Commodores gave the Jackets everything they could handle before Tech was able to secure the win. The match opened with doubles play, and all three of the doubles matches were decided by three or fewer points. Tech earned the first victory when sophomore Sasha Krupina and freshman Irina Falconi won their match 8-5 in the second flight over Catherine Newman and Chelsea Preeg; however, Vanderbilt responded when sisters Courtney and Keilly Ulery defeated Tech’s freshman Lynn Blau and sophomore Amanda McDowell, 8-6. The doubles point came down to the first-flight match, and Tech’s tandem of senior Christy Striplin and sophomore Noelle Hickey—the No. 20 doubles pair in the nation—came up short, falling to Jackie Wu and Heather Steinbauer 8-6 to give Vanderbilt the doubles point.
Tech was starting from behind in singles play, but they fought back quickly in a round that saw all six matches decided in straight sets. In the first match to end, Krupina topped Steinbauer in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, to bring Tech back to a 1-1 tie. The match in the third flight involved one of three duels between ranked opponents, as Hickey (No. 43) took on Wu (No. 64); unfortunately, Wu pulled off the upset, winning 6-3, 6-2 to put Vanderbilt ahead once again. However, Tech then pulled off three consecutive wins to secure a victory for the match. Striplin, ranked No. 46, completed a strong victory over Preeg by the score of 6-1, 6-2. McDowell, ranked No. 18, then dispatched No. 112 Keilly Ulery 6-0, 6-4 to give Tech a 3-2 lead for the match. The closest singles battle of the day was the first flight match, where No. 7 Falconi had her hands full with No. 61 Newman; in the end, Falconi was able to pull out a victory in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, to clinch the victory for the Jackets. The elder of the Ulery sisters, Courtney, topped Blau 6-3, 6-1 in the sixth flight, but Tech still left Nashville with a 4-3 victory.
After the tight battle with the Commodores, Tech cruised to an easy victory against Wake on Saturday, sweeping the host Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem. Tech was on from the very start, with the doubles tandem of Striplin and Hickey defeating Wake’s Sasha Kulikova and Sierra Poske 8-1 to open doubles play. Krupina and Falconi took their second-flight match 8-4 to secure the doubles victory for Tech, though Wake’s Christian Tara and Katarina Reveche did defeat Blau and McDowell in the third match.
The Jackets remained in control throughout singles play, with five players winning their matches in straight sets. McDowell was the first to finish her match, defeating Wake’s Poske 6-1, 6-0 in the second flight. Soon afterward, Krupina defeated Reveche 6-2, 6-1, and Falconi took the first-flight match 6-0, 6-2 over Kulikova, the No. 51 singles player in the national rankings. Hickey, ranked No. 43 and playing the third flight, lost her first set against Emilee Malvehy but rebounded to win the final two, taking the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-0. Freshman Viet Ha Ngo topped Wake’s Ryann Cutillo 6-3, 6-3, and Striplin needed a tiebreaker but defeated Tara in straight sets, winning 7-6, 6-2 to complete the sweep for the Jackets.
On Sunday, Tech traveled to nearby Raleigh to take on NC State and put together another strong performance to secure the victory.
In doubles play, the first-flight match saw a long battle as Striplin and Hickey dueled the Wolfpack’s No. 45 pair of Berkeley Brock and Lenka Hojckova; the matchup reached tie at eight games apiece, and Brock and Hojckova took the final game to secure the 9-8 win. However, by the time that match ended, Tech had already won the other two doubles matches to claim the doubles point. Falconi and Krupina rolled to an 8-0 win over Neils Barringer and Diana Mortlock in the second flight, and Blau and McDowell rebounded from Saturday’s loss to defeat Daria Pertovic and Pender Sessoms 8-3.
“We really want to make winning the double point a habit,” Head Coach Bryan Shelton said in a press release.
In the afternoon’s singles play, the first-flight match was the first to conclude, with Falconi defeating Brock 6-1, 6-1. Hickey then took down Pertovic 6-3, 6-2, and Striplin topped Barringer 6-1, 6-3. McDowell’s match went to a second-set tiebreaker, but the defending NCAA singles champion won out and defeated No. 99 Hojckova 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). The Wolfpack did secure a singles victory when Mortlock avenged her doubles loss against Krupina; Mortlock forced and won a second-set tiebreaker, then took the final series 10-3. The day’s final match to end saw Ngo defeat Jackie Ussery 6-1, 6-0.
“It was a good victory for us today. We had to be mentally tough out there to deal with the windy conditions and I thought we did that…I hope we can establish some momentum going in to the ACC Tournament next month,” Shelton said.