The Univ. at Albany women’s tennis team headed into the first round of the AmericaEast Championships with the intention of knocking off #4 seeded Stony Brook, a team that had dominated them in an earlier season match. The Seawolves won, 4-1, but had the Danes gotten only one point more, it may have been a different story. Rocio Lopez and Livia Gherman held four separate match points at #1 doubles, any one of which would have given the doubles point to the Danes. The energy drain experienced from losing that match and the doubles point was palpable and had a definite impact on the UA singles. Still it was an improvement on their earlier season pounding.
The Seawolves, with only six players on their roster, decided to rest their injured player Chloe Pike, handing the #3 doubles match to Sarah Iannone and Aubrey Brooks without a stroke being hit. Kirsten Scott and Cheryl Kukkonen fell behind early at #2, then played their opponents evenly for the rest of the match, losing 8-5. This put the doubles point all on the #1 match.
Facing a duo that had blitzed them in late Feb., Lopez and Gherman played one of their best matches of the year. Everyone held serve to 3-3, then the Danes broke twice and held Lopez’ serve in between to lead 6-3. The Dane tandem did it with consistent serves and returns coupled with some timely pick off plays in the middle of the court. Now with Gherman serving, they had a chance to open a seemingly insurmountable lead. But the Danes missed a couple of balls and it was the Seawolves who fought back to break, then held to make it 6-5. The Danes held Lopez serve to go up 7-5, putting them a game away from the big win. UA got three separate match points in this game, and yet the Seawolves answered, holding to 7-6. Now Gherman served again, this time for the match. In a close game the Danes found themselves at match point once again. On what was likely the play of the match, Gherman had an opportunity to rip a mid-court passing shot right down the alley of Polina Mouchan, who had struggled at times in the match. This time, however, Mouchan came up with a great forehand volley, not only saving what looked like a ripper at close range by Gherman for the match, but volleying it back for a clean winner down the middle of the court. And that was it! The Danes would not get another match point as the Seawolves broke Gherman, held Mouchan’s serve and then broke Lopez for the first time to win 9-7.
The proverbial wind went out of the sails a bit. But the real wind kept gusting, giving the Danes hope they could use it to frustrate and beat the Seawolves. Within a half hour it was apparent that the Seawolves were in control as they won the first sets at #2,6,4 and 3. At that juncture, Pike chose to retire at #5 while leading Iannone 4-1. Now the team score stood at 1-1. Lopez, in the meantime, was playing masterfully at #1. She mixed slice, pace, and height against the hard-hitting Nini Lagvilava to win the first set 6-2. Within another 30 minutes the Seawolves went up 3-1 with dominating wins at #6 and #2. Lagvilava started to find her range in the second set and made it an even second set. Scott dropped her first set at #3, but was mounting a comeback in the second. But the ‘Wolves prevailed at #4, to take the final point needed for the team match.
Now the Danes finish up their season with the 5/6 consolation match vs. Hartford, Saturday. They are looking to put another dominating win on the Hawks and walk away into the off-season.
1. Lagvilava-Mouchan (SB) def. Lopez-Gherman (UA) 9-7*
2. Hanson-Appineni (SB) def. Scott- Kukkonen (UA) 8-5
3. Iannone-Brooks (UA) def. Pike-Mkervalidze (SB) def.
Order of finish: 3,2,1
*Doubles pt. clincher
1. Rocio Lopez led Nini Lagvilava (SB) 6-2, 4-5; DNF
2. Polina Mouchan (SB) def. Livia Gherman (UA) 6-0,6-0
3. Katherine Hanson (SB) led Kirsten Scott (UA) 6-1,3-2; DNF
4. Prerana Appineni (SB) def. Cheryl Kukkonen (UA) 6-2,6-2 $
5. Sarah Iannone (UA) def. Chloe Pike (SB) 1-4, ret. inj.
6. Salome Mkervalidze (SB) def. Aubrey Brooks 6-0,6-1
Order of finish: 5,6,2,4
$ Match clincher.
UALBANY RECORDS: 10-14 (overall); 1-5 (AmericaEast)
NEXT MATCH: Saturday, April 28, 11:30 a.m. vs. HARTFORD @ USTA National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows,