April 19, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. - Despite a valiant effort on Thursday night, No. 69 Auburn women's tennis fell 4-2 to No. 20 Tennessee in the opening round of play in the 2012 SEC Women's Tennis Championship.
“Obviously you don’t want to end your season with a loss, but I think we played really hard," Auburn head coach Lauren Longbotham Meisner said. "I think we played much better than we did the first time we saw them, so I was really proud of our effort and attitude the whole time. Tennessee’s a really great team. I think we gave them everything we got and all the credit goes to Tennessee. They played a very good match.”
Auburn was able to overcome an early 1-0 hole when Olivia Bennett came through with a dominating win at the sixth line to knot the match at 1-1. Bennett dispatched Jesse Grace 6-1, 6-0 to even things with five matches to be determined.
A loss at No. 2 by Emily Flickinger left Auburn down 2-1, but it didn't take long for the Tigers to bounce back and knot things once again. Jackie Kasler dropped Caitlyn Williams 6-1, 6-2 at the four spot as Auburn battled back to force another tie.
Freshman Jen Pfeifler battled the nation's No. 35 player Natalie Pluskota through a tough first set, but fell 7-6, 6-3. The loss left Auburn trailing 3-2 with two matches still in play.
"I was really proud of Jen (Pfeifler)," Longbotham Meisner said. "It was a much closer match than what she had before, so I think all the way through the lineup we were playing much better than the way we played the first time we played them. Natalie’s (Pluskota) a really great player, one of the top 30 players in the nation, so for Jen to be able to push her to the limit that was a really big step for her. I’m really proud of her and I know she’s really proud of her performance.”
After taking the first set 6-2, Plamena Kurteva dropped back-to-back sets 6-3 and 6-1 to No. 52 Kata Szekely on court three to give the Lady Vols the deciding fourth point. With the match in hand in favor of Tennessee, Paulina Schippers' match at No. 5 was left unfinished in the second set.
Tennessee took the doubles point with wins at the second and third spots in the lineup. With the match tied at four games apiece, Schippers and Pfeifler dropped four straight to fall 8-4 and give the Lady Vols the point.
Taylor Schreimann and Kurteva had fallen 8-3 just moments before to Joanna Henderson and Jesse Grace at the third doubles line. The top-spot match that featured Auburn's tandem of Flickinger and Kasler facing off with Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely from Tennessee was tied at 5-5 when the point was decided and thus was left unfinished.
“We always talk about doubles being just one point, so we just wanted to remember that there is still six more to go, and just to get energy," Meisner said. "You’ve got to play for tomorrow, and just give it everything you’ve got. This is the end of the season, so if you don’t give it everything then it’s going to be a quick match. I think we did everything we could in terms of coming out with a lot of energy and a lot of fire, which I was really proud of. Again, we gave them all we got. They’re just a really good team.”
The Tigers will now wait to see if they receive an at-large bid to the 2012 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship. For the latest on Auburn women's tennis, follow @AUWomensTennis on Twitter.ResultsSingles1. No. 35 Natalie Pluskota (TENN) def. Jen Pfeifler (AU) 7-6, 6-32. No. 28 Brynn Boren (TENN) def. Emily Flickinger (AU) 6-3, 6-23. No. 52 Kata Szekely (TENN) def. Plamena Kurteva (AU) 2-6, 6-3, 6-14. Jackie Kasler (AU) def. Caitlyn Williams (TENN) 6-1, 6-25. Paulina Schippers (AU) vs. Caitlyn Williams (TENN) Unfinished 6. Olivia Bennett (AU) def. Jesse Grace (TENN) 6-1, 6-0Doubles1. Emily Flickinger / Jackie Kasler (AU) vs. Natalie Pluskota / Kata Szekely (TENN) 5-5 (unfinished)2. Brynn Boren / Caitlyn Williams (TENN) def. Paulina Schippers / Jen Pfeifler (AU) 8-43. Joanna Henderson / Jesse Grace (TENN) def. Taylor Schreimann / Plamena Kurteva (AU) 8-3