April 17, 2010
Heather Bybee, Fani Chifchieva, Jil Hastenrath, and Myrthe Moleveld, the No. 52 Auburn women's tennis team was defeated in the final regular-season match of the year Saturday night at the City of Auburn/Yarbrough Tennis Center by No. 73 Alabama, 4-3.
"It was a great match. First off, hats off to Alabama," said head coach Tim Gray. "We've looked forward to this match all year, and we knew that it was going to be a tight one. They stepped up when they needed to.
"The senior tandem of Chifchieva and Hastenrath got Auburn (9-10, 3-8) off on the right foot in doubles play, as they defeated Alabama's Alice Tunaru and Antonia Foeshe by a score of 8-1 in second-flight action.
However, the Crimson Tide (10-11, 3-8) would turn things around quickly, as the third-flight duo of Paulina Bigos and Merritt Emery knocked off Auburn's freshman pair of Plamena Kurteva and Caroline Thornton by a count of 8-1 in flight three to secure the doubles point.
First-flight singles featured two nationally-ranked doubles teams. Auburn's Paulina Schippers, who paired with Molenveld, entered the evening ranked No. 70 in the country, and the opposing pair of Courtney McLane were ranked No. 17 in the latest ITA poll. The back-and-forth battle was won by the Alabama pairing by the score of 8-5, giving the Tide a two-match win streak heading into singles play.
The Crimson Tide extended their lead to 2-0 after winning No. 2 singles, as No. 60 Alexa Guarachi defeated Auburn sophomore Daniela Vukadinovic 6-2, 6-3. However, the Tigers answered right back, as Hastenrath defeated Bigos 7-5, 6-1 in at No. 5, and Molenveld defeated Emery 6-4, 6-2 to even the tally at 2-2.
Chifchieva, the No. 47 player in the country, momentarily gave Auburn a 3-2 lead as she defeated McLane 6-2, 6-4 in the No. 1 position. Shortly following Chifchieva's win, Alabama's Tunaru defeated Schippers 6-2, 6-4 at No. 6 to even the match at 3-3 with one match remaining on court four, where Foeshe and Thornton squared off.
Foeshe won the first set 6-4, and the second-set was tied a 3-3. However, the advantage was stretched to a 5-3 Alabama lead before Foeshe won the final point to come away with a 6-3 second set victory to take the match, 6-4, 6-3.
"Our seniors did a great job to get us back into it after going down 2-0 and bringing it back to a 3-2 lead for us. Our freshman learned a lot today and what the rivalry with Alabama means. This time next year they will remember that and they'll be able to come out and get some wins where we weren't able to get them today. I'm very proud of the great effort. We didn't stop fighting and that's all I ask of them. Hopefully we can make some noise in the SEC Tournament and advance to regionals once again," Gray said.
With the regular season portion of the schedule now completed, the Tigers will be the No. 10 seed in upcoming SEC Tournament and earn a date with No. 7 Arkansas on April 22 at 2 p.m. on McWhorther Court in Athens, Ga.. Arkansas won the regular-season meeting on April 2, 6-1 in Fayetteville.