FAYETTEVILLE – A straight set win by junior Ela Kaluder kept the 26th-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback tennis team’s heart beating in a dramatic, 4-3, Southeastern Conference loss to No. 29 Auburn on a sunny Friday at the Billingsley Tennis Center.
Kaluder’s, 6-3, 7-6(3), victory over Melissa Koning set up for a spectacular deciding match on Court 4 between senior Maryori Franco and Auburn’s Whitney Chappell with the match squared at 3-3, as the match was tied at one set apiece heading into the final set.
With the deciding set tied at 2-2, the next two games went to deuce, knotting it back up at 3-3. Like a heavyweight fight, both Franco and Chappell slugged back and forth with neither gaining more than a one game advantage, sending to a 6-6 tie and a tiebreak to decide the verdict.
With jittery, jubilant Arkansas fans in the grandstand, Franco quickly jumped ahead 3-1, but Chappell buckled down winning six straight to claim the win for Auburn, 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(3).
“Give tons of credit to Auburn (7-2, 1-0), they found a way to win today,” said Lady’Back head coach Michael Hegarty. “Franco gave it all she had in a fantastic effort in which she deserved to win.”
For the fifth straight match, Arkansas (7-5, 0-1) took a lead thanks to outstanding play in doubles. However, in the three singles matches Arkansas dropped the Lady’Backs won only 15 games on the three courts.
“When three courts win only fifteen games, it will get you beat every time out,” Hegarty said. “If our play on other courts was better, the match would not have been placed on Franco’s shoulders."
After being ahead 1-0 after doubles, Audrey Bordeleau increased the Arkansas lead to 2-0 snatching her 10th singles win of the season against Gabby Beelen, 6-3, 6-3. However, wins on Courts 1 and 2 by Auburn knotted things back up at 2-2, before the Lady Tigers jumped ahead 3-2 when Jil Hastenrath defeated Nanar Airapetian, 6-4, 6-2. The one point lead for the 2007 Western Division champions was diminished quickly with Kaluder’s victory, thus supplying the dramatic clutch finish by Chappell.
In doubles, Bordeleau and freshman Anouk Tigu improved to 8-1 on season in an impressive, 8-3, match over Hastenrath and Beelen. The Lady’Backs were able to clinch their first point as 59th-ranked Franco and Airapetian toppled Fani Chifchieva and Chappell, 8-6.
The Lady Razorbacks will look for their first SEC victory against Western Division foe Alabama at the Billingsley Tennis Center Sunday at 12:00 p.m.
Live Stats will be available for the match on LADYBACKS.COM.
1. #50 Fani Chifchieva (Auburn) def. #2 Aurelija Miseviciute (Arkansas), 6-0, 6-4
2. Alex Haney (Auburn) def. #61 Anouk Tigu (Arkansas), 6-4, 6-1
3. Ela Kaluder (Arkansas) def. Melissa Koning (Auburn), 6-3, 7-6(3)
4. Whitney Chappell (Auburn) def. Maryori Franco (Arkansas), 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(3)
5. Jil Hastenrath (Auburn) def. Nanar Airapetian (Arkansas), 6-4, 6-2
6. Audrey Bordeleau (Arkansas) def. Gabby Beelen (Auburn) 6-3, 6-3
Match Notes: (Order of Finish: 6,2,1,5,3,4*)
1. Alex Haney/Melissa Koning (Auburn) def. #23 Aurelija Miseviciute/Ela Kaluder (Ark.), 8-6.
2. #59 Nanar Airapetian/Maryori Franco (Ark.) def. Fani Chifchieva/Whitney Chappell (Auburn) 8-6.
3. Audrey Bordeleau/Anouk Tigu (Ark) def. Jil Hastenrath/Gabby Beelen (Auburn), 8-3.
Match Notes: (Order of Finish: 3,2*,1)