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Tulsa Time: Auburn women's tennis gets Vandy rematch in NCAA Sweet 16
May 16, 2016

<em> After a program-record 24th win, Auburn will make its first appearance in the NCAA Championships Round of 16.</em>
After a program-record 24th win, Auburn will make its first appearance in the NCAA Championships Round of 16.

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala - In this season of firsts -- first top 10 ranking, first time to host a regional, first trip to the Sweet 16 -- it's a second that has Auburn's women's tennis team so enthused. A second chance against Vanderbilt.

Last month in Nashville, the Tigers were a few points away from knocking off the defending national champion Commodores on Vandy's home court.

Freshman Alannah Griffin, playing No. 4 singles, led Courtney Colton, 4-1, in the third set. Colton rallied to win, 6-4, giving Vanderbilt a 4-3 victory.

Griffin and the No. 11 Tigers get another crack at the No. 6 Commodores Thursday at 9 a.m. in Tulsa, Okla. in the NCAA Championships Round of 16.

"I can't even explain to you how much that hurt losing that match last time, being 4-1 up in the third against the national champions. I'm so ready for my revenge now," Griffin said.

"I know the way I've got to play to beat that girl. And I know that we can beat Vanderbilt. I know it. We proved ourselves last time, so I've just got to get in the right place mentally. I just want it so badly that I'm ready. I am ready. Bring it on."

Dropping the third set was out of character for Auburn this season. The Tigers are 38-20 in matches that go the distance.

"My team wants Vanderbilt," Auburn coach Lauren Spencer said. "They want another shot at them. They're very confident against Vanderbilt. It's anyone's game. If we go in there and play Auburn tennis at the highest level, then we have a really good shot of beating this team."

Spencer attributes Auburn's third-set success to a commitment to fitness that began in the fall, with grueling workouts on the track, in the weight room and on the court.

"This is the time where the fittest teams, and the most mentally tough teams will persevere. It's not the most talented team. It's who can be out there the longest. Who can be mentally tough, and who can physically can stand five hours if it takes five hours. I think we're that team, and I think we have a really good shot of making a deep run in the tournament because of our fitness, and our mental strength."

The Tigers relied on that fitness and mental toughness on Saturday, earning a program record 24th win, beating Arizona State, 4-2, in the second round of the Auburn regional. All six singles matches went three sets.

"I've always said that the battle-tested teams and the teams with the best fitness and mental toughness are going to prevail at the national championship, and I think that we're one of those teams," Spencer said.

The win gave Auburn an 18-1 record this season at home.

Andie Dikosaveljevic, playing No. 1, clinched the Tigers' first Sweet 16 appearance.

"Hosting has just provided us with such a great opportunity," she said. "We have such an advantage being at home with our home crowd. We have some amazing fans. We love being here. It's just such a great atmosphere to play in.

<em> Andie Dikosavljevic clinched Auburn's second-round match against Arizona State.</em>
Andie Dikosavljevic clinched Auburn's second-round match against Arizona State.

"The determination and grit that our team has is just amazing. To beat us, you have to be able to play your best tennis for five hours," Dikosaveljevic said.

Griffin is prepared to do just that, believing a win over Vanderbilt could propel the Tigers toward another first -- Auburn's first national championship.

"It would just mean so much. I know we'd be so happy as a team," Griffin said. "If we do that, we can potentially go all the way. I can see us doing that. And I believe in us. So, if we get through this match, it looks pretty good."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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