UAlbany women’s tennis found a way to win a spell-binding, down-to-the-wire marathon against the Pioneers, played at Yale’s indoor tennis center. The Danes won with ‘depth and doubles’…and a LOT OF HEART (pre-Valentine’s Day)!!
UA took the doubles point convincingly, sweeping all three matches to start what had the makings of a romp. The ‘Dream Team’ (Brooks-Iannone at #3) continued their undefeated spring record. #1, Gherman-Lopez, got their first win as a team to clinch the doubles point. And Kukkonen-Scott downed Sacred Heart’s #1 and #2 singles players at #2 doubles to complete the sweep.
But the tenor of the match shifted suddenly and dramatically in singles. The Pioneers came storming back to take a 3-1 lead on the strength of straight set wins at #2, #1, and #4, respectively. At this point, the math was simple. UAlbany had to sweep the remaining singles matches. Kirsten Scott (#3) set the stage for the eventual come-from-behind victory keeping the Danes in the match by winning a dynamic three-setter after dropping the second set at love. Battling physical ailments, as were several Danes, Scott kept her dual match unbeaten streak alive…and more importantly, kept her team alive in this match!! HUGE!
This put the pressure and privilege of closing out the match on the shoulders (more accurately, on the LEGS and the MENTAL TOUGHNESS) of Sarah Iannone (#5) and Aubrey Brooks (#6). Since the match was contested on only four courts, Brooks and Iannone started once courts #1 and #2 opened up. Brooks disposed of her opponent in short order, the quickest match of the night by far, turning the spotlight on #5 singles.
From 11:00 pm until completion around 12:30 am, for the last set and one-half, Iannone was on center stage…alone but for the highly vocal support of her teammates. Everyone was glued to what can only be described as one of the most gutsy performances in a pressure-packed situation. Iannone dropped a close first set, 7-5, to her worthy opponent, a human wall who retrieved almost everything and occasionally launched a few winners just when you thought all she could do was defend. Iannone hung tough, however, and initiated more forays to the net in the second set to keep the set even. They went to a tiebreak. Iannone fell behind 4-1, then won 3 of the next 5 points. Facing double match point at 6-4 down, the Dane changed her pattern of slicing her backhand crosscourt by taking it up the line, clearing the net by a matter of inches and catching her opponent off guard to save the first match point. She then ran off the next three points to take the second set.
The third set was classic GUT-CHECK tennis!! Iannone seemed to have the momentum from the second set, but within two games she started cramping and it appeared that the match might be determined by physical fitness. Instead it was determined by a tough mindset! The remainder of the match was a study in watching a player fight through the pain and uncertainty of how her body would hold up vs. an opponent who was going to give Iannone every opportunity to cramp up and concede. Early in the set, Iannone was treated by the trainers on a changeover, but from there on she was on her own to handle the cramps, as per ITA rules. She gamely battled on, applying pressure when she was able (although getting to the net was tougher now) and mixing in her own defense which forced her opponent into stepping outside of her comfort zone to attack and make some errors as well as winners. In the end, the Dane came through BIG TIME with a 6-4 final set win to give her team the victory!!
UAlbany 4 Sacred Heart 3
1. Lopez-Gherman (UA) def. Donnelly-Chao (SH) 8-4*
2. Scott-Kukkonen (UA) def. Kaldan-Rydzewski (SH) 8-5
3. Iannone-Brooks (UA) def. Downing-Legenza (SH) 8-4
Order of finish: 3,1,2
*Doubles point clincher
1. Gabi Kaldan (SH) def. Rocio Lopez (UA) 6-5,6-3
2. Nicole Rydzewski (SH) def. Livia Gherman (UA) 6-3,6-1
3. Kirsten Scott (UA) def. Kate Donnelly (SH) 6-4,0-6,6-3
4. Kristina Chao (SH) def. Cheryl Kukkonen (UA) 6-1,7-6(5)
5. Sarah Iannone (UA) def. Delaney Downing (SH) 5-7,7-6(6),6-4$
6. Aubrey Brooks (UA) def. Kristin Legenza (SH) 6-1,6-0
Exhibition singles: Francine White (UA) def. Maggie Touley (SH) 8-2, and Maley Dubits(SH) 8-2
Order of finish: 2,1,4,3,6,5
UALBANY RECORDS: 3-1 (Season); 0-0 (AmericaEast)
NEXT MATCH: Friday, Feb. 17, 6:30pm @ BINGHAMTON (SUNY) (first conference match)
NEXT MATCH in ALBANY: Saturday, Feb. 18, 5:30 pm vs. SIENA at Tri-City Tennis and Fitness, Latham, NY