ATHENS, GA. — For the second time this season, the No. 25 Razorback women’s tennis team found themselves playing from behind against the No. 17 Ole Miss Rebels after losing the doubles point. However, this time around the Hogs could not capitalize on strong singles play and dropped the team match, 4-2, at the Henry Feild Courts at the University of Georgia. With the loss, the Razorbacks are now eliminated from the SEC Tournament and await their fate for the NCAA Tournament.
“Give Ole Miss a lot of credit for finding a way to win a close match,” said head coach Michael Hegarty. “Both teams got better today, and this experience was invaluable to our young squad as we prepare for the NCAA Tournament.”
Much like their previous meeting earlier in the season, the Rebels (15-4, 9-3 SEC) and Razorbacks (17-9, 7-6 SEC) were prepared to fight for each and every single point that was played. That determination was put on display right away in doubles play as Ole Miss struck first at court three as Laura van de Stroet and Abby Guthrie defeated the team of sophomore Stephanie Roy and freshman Claudine Paulson, 8-1. Soon after, the Hogs answered back as junior Anouk Tigu and freshman Valentina Starkova took down the team of Connor Vogel and Gabby Rangel by a score of 8-3.
The Hogs found themselves in a familiar position as the day before as the important doubles point came down to court one between sophomore Kate Lukomskaya and freshman Kelsey Sundaram and the Ole Miss team of Karen Nijssen and Kristi Boxx, who are the 12th-ranked doubles team in the nation. After Ole Miss jumped out to a small lead, Arkansas was able to come right back. However, Ole Miss was able to pull out the win in the end, 8-4, and give the Rebels the 1-0 lead into singles play.
For the second time this season, the Razorbacks went into singles play down 1-0, but the team was willing to have a repeat performance from the regular season in singles. Sundaram got the scoring going for the Hogs, as she was the first person to finish her match on the day, dispatching van de Stroet in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. With the score now, 1-1, Ole Miss’s top players were not going to allow another letdown as No. 110 Nijssen dropped Lukomskaya at court two, 6-1, 6-4, to put the Rebels on top in the team overall, 2-1.
The score remained 2-1 for the majority of the day as three of the final four matches went to third sets. At court six, Starkova was in a tight match with Rangel as the freshman from Kazakhstan won the first set easily 6-4. The second set was much tougher as it went into a tiebreaker, but Starkova was able to come out on top, 7-6 (3), tying the team score up at two.
Over at court four, Roy won her first set, 6-2, over Guthrie, but then stumbled in the second set by the same score, 2-6, to be taken to a third and deciding set. With neither player running away with the match, it became tied up at five before Guthrie won the final two games to get the win, 7-5, pushing the Rebels ahead, 3-2.
With two matches remaining, it seemed that the match could possibly come down to one court. At the number three spot, sophomore Emily Carbone was involved in a heavily contested match with Vogel. After winning a close first set, 7-5, Carbone dropped the second set, 6-2. In the final set, Carbone gave everything she had and then some, but was not able to come out on top to keep the Razorbacks in it and fell, 6-3. The singles win gave Ole Miss the clinching point as they now move on to play Tennessee on Saturday.
With the conference tournament over, the Hogs will now have to wait and see where their name falls in the NCAA Tournament field. The NCAA Women’s Tennis Selection Show will be Tuesday, May 4th on ESPN News.
To find out when and where the Hogs fall in the field and for continued coverage of the Razorback women’s tennis team, be sure to log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.Complete ResultsNo. 25 Arkansas 2No. 17 Ole Miss 4Doubles Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1*No. 1 #12 Karen Nijssen/Kristi Boxx (UM) def. Kate Lukomskaya/Kelsey Sundaram (ARK) 8-4No. 2 Anouk Tigu/Valentina Starkova (ARK) def. Connor Vogel/Gabby Rangel (UM) 8-3No. 3 Laura vande Stroet/Abby Guthrie (UM) def. Stephanie Roy/Claudine Paulson (ARK) 8-1Singles Order of Finish: 5, 2, 6, 4, 3*No. 1 #62 Kristi Boxx (UM) tied with Anouk Tigu (ARK) 2-6, 7-5, 4-4No. 2 #110 Karen Nijssen (UM) def. Kate Lukomskaya (ARK) 6-1, 6-4No. 3 Connor Vogel (UM) def. Emily Carbone (ARK) 5-7, 6-2, 6-3No. 4 Abby Guthrie (UM) def. Stephanie Roy (ARK) 2-6, 6-2, 7-5No. 5 Kelsey Sundaram (ARK) def. Laura van de Stroet (UM) 6-1, 6-2No. 6 Valentina Starkova (ARK) def. Gabby Rangel (UM) 6-4, 7-6 (3)