Tom Via || Staff writer
Women’s tennis continued its impressive fall performance with five players claiming spots in the finals at the Steve Beras Classic hosted by UT Chattanooga.
Head Coach Olga Elkin was impressed with the performance of her team against the tough competition.
“I’m extremely proud of the way they all fought and competed,” Elkin said. “I have a group that works extremely hard.”
In the tournament that featured six singles competitions, the Racers claimed two championships in both the No. 6 and No. 2 draws. Sophomore Suzaan Stoltz won the No. 6 draw, while senior Carla Suga and freshman Eleonore Tchakarova filled both spots in the No. 2 final.
Stoltz was the top seed in the nine-woman field for the No. 6 draw and cruised easily into the finals with back-to-back straight set wins over two UT Martin opponents.
In the finals, Stoltz faced her third Skyhawk of the competition; unlike the first two matches, Stoltz dropped the first set 6-4. Stoltz rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win the second set 6-4, and with the momentum Stoltz dominated her opponent 6-1 in the final to claim the victory.
“She basically played all of UT Martin,” Elkin said. “It was a great tournament for her. It was the best I’ve seen her play.”
In the No. 2 draw, Suga and Tchakarova earned their spots in the finals in different ways. Suga defeated both her opponents in straight sets (6-2, 6-3) to advance to the finals.
Tchakarova had a more difficult path to the finals with a first-round win that needed seven games in the opening set, but the freshman would come away with the 7-5, 6-2 win. In the semifinals, Tchakarova dropped the opening set 6-2, but rallied with a 6-1 performance in the second set. She advanced to the finals after her University of Alabama at Birmingham opponent retired trailing 4-1, giving the Racers both spots in the finals.
In the top draw, junior Andrea Eskauriatza was matched up with the top seed from Kennesaw State and battled hard in the first set, winning 7-6 in a tiebreaker. She advanced with a 6-4 win in the second set.
Much like her quarterfinal matchup, Eskauriatza would play extra games against her Eastern Kentucky opponent, but advance with a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 win to put the Racers in their third final of the competition.
In the matchup against Chattanooga’s top player, Eskauriatza lost the opening set 6-1, but won 6-3 in the second set to force a decisive final set. The comeback fell short for Eskauriatza as she lost 6-2 in the final to take the runner-up spot.
The Racers’ other finalist came from sophomore Erin Patton in the No. 5 draw. Matched up against the No. 2 seed, Patton won in straight sets 6-2, 7-6. In the semifinals Patton defeated her EKU opponent in straight sets 6-4, 6-1.
In the finals, Patton lost the first set 6-2 and tried to rally in the second set. Patton forced a tiebreaker, but lost in straight sets.
Freshman Verginie Tchakarova and sophomore Megan Blue also competed in singles for the Racers. Blue claimed a fourth-place finish in the No. 3 draw, and Tchakarova took seventh in the No. 4 draw.
“Overall in singles, everyone played extremely well,” Elkin said. “I’m so proud of the way our team competed against the tougher competition.”
In the doubles portion of the tournament, the Racers’ freshmen Tchakarova sisters were the second seed in the No. 2 draw. The duo swept its opening round opponent 8-0 but fell in the semifinals to the host school 8-3. In the third-place game Sunday, the sisters lost 8-5.
In the No. 1 draw, Elkin paired Eskauriatza and Suga together. In a competitive quarterfinal, the Racers fell short of the win with an 8-6 loss but bounced back with a win by the same score to play in the fifth-place match. In its final match, the team lost in a tiebreaker 8-7.
“Andrea and Carla played their best doubles this past weekend,” Elkins said. “They are working together and getting better and make a strong team.”
Much like their teammates in the No. 1 draw, the Racer team of Blue and Patton fell in a close first-round matchup in the No. 3 draw. They came back with a dominant 8-2 win before falling in the fifth place match, 8-3.
“We had a tough doubles weekend,” Elkin said. “We will spend our break working hard on that area.”
The Racers now have four weeks to prepare for their final tournament of the fall season.
“The team definitely needs to rest and recover after two tournaments,” Elkin said. “Everyone has something individual that they need to work on, so we will work individually tightening up those parts of their games.”
Women’s tennis returns to action Oct. 25-27 at Arkansas State.