Senior day was extra special Sunday afternoon for the University of Arkansas women’s tennis team as they took the lead in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 4-3 win over the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
With the win, the Lady Razorbacks (9-8, 5-5) could now win the Western Division title outright with a win over LSU on April 15.
“It’s really fitting for us to win a close match on senior day,” said Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty. “Melissa Cornett, Vlatka Jovanovic and Karina Ledaja have been integral in our development in the past few years.”
In perhaps the tightest doubles competition of the season, the Lady’Backs and Crimson Tide split win on courts one and three, leaving the doubles point in the hands of senior Melissa Cornett and freshman Aurelija Miseviciute on court two.
Down 5-7 with Alabama serving, the match did not look promising until Melissa Cornett broke Alabama’s Melissa Day’s serve to spark the four-game comeback. In the final two games of the eight-game pro set, Cornett and Miseviciute only lost one point on their way to winning Arkansas’ 10th doubles point of the season.
In singles competition, sophomore Maryori Franco notched Arkansas’ first singles win of the afternoon with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Alabama’s Natalie McElveen. The win is Franco’s fifth in her last sixth singles match.
Giving Arkansas the edge in singles on centre court was Miseviciute topping of Alabama’s premier player, senior Robin Stephenson, 6-4, 6-0. Stephenson is currently ranked 14th in the country and had won 11 of her past 14 matches. Currently Miseviciute is 7-3 in SEC play this spring and 15-3 overall this spring.
Ela Kaluder clinched the all-important match for Arkansas in a three-set battle against Alabama’s Mari Muller. Kaluder blanked Muller in the first set, was upset in a tiebreaker in the second and rose to the challenge of giving Arkansas the division lead with a 6-3 third set victory.
“Ela played so tough today that she was in control of the match the whole time,” Hegarty said. “Muller is extremely difficult to close out, but Ela was playing so strong that it was just a matter of time. She is a clutch player and she has been since day one.”
Arkansas is back on the court on Wednesday, April 12, for a mid-week non-conference match against Oklahoma. The Lady’Backs play for the outright Western Division crown on April 15 against LSU in Baton Rouge.
“It’s nice to control your own destiny,” Hegarty said. “We have risen to the challenge this year, especially after being 0-5 in the SEC at one point.”
For more information on Arkansas tennis or any other Lady’Backs sport, please visit LADYBACKS.COM.
Tennis Match Results:
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Wal-Mart Life and Fitness Center
Arkansas 4, Alabama 3
1. Aurelija Miseviciute (AR) def. Robin Stephenson (AL) 6-4, 6-0
2. Ashley Bentley (AL) def. Vlatka Jovanovic (AR) def. 6-0, 6-1
3. Ela Kaluder (AR) def. Mari Muller (AL) 6-0, 6-7(4), 6-2
4. Maryori Franco (AR) Natalie McElveen (AL) 6-1, 6-1
5. Shelley Godwin (AL) def. Melissa Cornett (AR) 6-2, 6-1
6. Melissa Day (AL) def. Karina Ledaja (AR) 6-3, 5-4, ret.
1. Ashley Bentley/Robin Stephenson (AL) def. Maryori Franco/Karina Ledaja (AR) 8-4
2. Melissa Cornett/Aurelija Miseviciute (AR) def. Melissa Day/Natalie McElveen (AL) 9-7
3. Vlatka Jovanovic/Ela Kaluder (AR) def. Mari Muller/Andrea Brenes (AL) 8-6