Jackets clinch first dual season victory of the year

Senior Carol Lee serves in the ITA Kickoff Weekend. Lee is ranked at No. 107 in the country across all women’s singles players. // Photo courtesy of Tyler Parker Student Publication

The 15th annual Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Kickoff Weekend brought Tech’s women’s tennis team to Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend. ITA Kickoff Weekend is a nationwide qualifier for the 60 best programs battling for a slot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships on Feb. 9-12 in Seattle, Wash. 

The Jackets faced off against the No. 24 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the afternoon of Jan. 26. A win would set Tech up to play the  No. 11 ranked Virginia Cavaliers in the championship, while a loss places Tech in a consolation match against Texas Tech.

Doubles action saw freshman duo Given Roach and Scarlett Nicholson continue their strong spring start. Despite dropping their first two games on the third court to Wisconsin graduate student Xinyu Cai and freshman Kája Jacobson, Roach and Nicholson retaliated by winning the next six games to take the set 6-2.

Senior  Carol Lee and junior Kate Sharabura squared off against Wisconsin’s No. 50 ranked doubles pair of senior Alina Mukhortova and sophomore Maria Sholokhova. Tied at 4-4, Lee and Sharabura won the ninth game to lead the set 5-4. This match was interrupted by the end of court two’s match. Following a 2-2 tie, junior Kylie Bilchev and sophomore Alejandra Cruz took off to win their match 6-4 against juniors Taylor Cataldi and Ariel Johnson. Going 2-0 earned Tech the doubles point and a 1-0 lead against Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s single middle court players erased these early advantages. 

No. 123 ranked Bilchev dropped the second court match to Mukhortova with set scores of 4-6 and 3-6. Similarly, Cruz fell to her third court opponent Cataldi in 3-6 and 4-6 sets. Roach met a tough opponent on the fourth court in No. 87 ranked Cai. After 3-6 and 2-6 sets, Wisconsin swiftly flipped the script on Tech.

The remaining Jackets rallied back. On the first court, No. 107 ranked Lee took her first set 7-6 against No. 67 ranked Sholokhova in a 7-4 tiebreaker. Lee carried her momentum into the second set 6-3. Nicholson continued a strong day by taking the sixth court in two tiebreakers against graduate student Rosie
Garcia Gross, a former Jacket. 

Tech senior Mahak Jain traded blows with Johnson on the fifth court for the deciding match. After the first two sets ended 6-4 and 2-6, Jain jumped out to a 4-1 lead before Johnson recovered to put Jain in serving position down 5-6. Jain clearly felt no pressure — she served out the set and forced the entire dual
match to end on a tiebreaker. 

Although Johnson took an early 6-3 lead, Jain remained unfazed against five match points to fight back to a 8-8 tie. Jain won the next two points to clinch Tech’s first dual season victory.

The Jackets looked to continue success, taking the courts for the championship Saturday afternoon against No. 11 ranked Virginia. Doubles play featured Virginia’s  No. 48 ranked pair on the second court. Graduate student Natasha Subhash and senior Hibah Shaikh proved too much for Bilchev and Cruz, who dropped the set 1-6. Lee and Sharabura took their match 6-4 over the Cavaliers junior duo of Melodie Collard and Elaine Chervinsky. 

Roach and Nicholson took an early 4-2 lead despite difficult opponents in sophomore Annabelle Xu and senior Sara Ziodato. The Collard-Xu duo is ranked No.13 — Virginia elected to split this ranked duo and trust Xu with Ziodato. This decision was validated after Xu and Ziodato took the next four games to claim the 6-4 victory and thus the doubles point for Virginia.

Virginia boasts a powerful singles squad that features four players in the top 90 rankings. Lee fought through a grueling 4-6 first set in her matchup with  No. 86  Xu on the first court to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. 

Cruz led the second set 4-3 of her third court battle against Subhash after dropping the first 2-6. Nicholson continued her  impressive weekend by taking the first set 6-4 over ranked No. 82 Ziodato but got in a 0-4 hole during  the second set.

The Cavaliers overwhelmed the rest of the Jackets to validate their No. 11 ranking. Jain dropped to Chervinsky in 1-6 and 3-6 sets on the fifth court. 

The second court saw Bilchev drop the first set 0-6 to ranked No. 46 Shaikh and the second 2-6. The Cavaliers clinched the 4-0 decision following a pair of 2-6 sets to Roach’s ranked No. 88 opponent Ziodato.

The Jackets did not qualify for the ITA Indoor Championships, but returned to Atlanta with their first dual season victory. 

After hosting Georgia State on Tuesday, Jan. 30, Tech travels to meet the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday, Feb. 2nd.