INCHING CLOSER: Team knocks off EKU for chance at season OVC Championship

Lori Allen/The News Freshmen twins Eleonore and Virginie Tchakarova play together in a March 30 doubles match against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Lori Allen/The News Freshmen twins Eleonore and Virginie Tchakarova play together in a March 30 doubles match against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Lori Allen/The News
Freshmen twins Eleonore and Virginie Tchakarova play together in a March 30 doubles match against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

In a long road trip with tough environments, women’s tennis earned a key victory against the two-time defending OVC champion Eastern Kentucky before falling to Morehead State.

“Playing Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State back-to-back on their home courts is tough,” Head Coach Olga Elkin said. “They are the rowdiest teams, especially when their men’s team is there. To be honest, they were obnoxious with taunting, but we handled it well.”

Sophomore Megan Blue said the team had one goal during the trip – to knock off the defending champions.

“From the second we got in the van, the goal for the team was to beat (Eastern),” Blue said. “There was never any doubt that we were going to lose, and that confidence showed.”

Junior Andrea Eskauriatza and sophomore Erin Patton earned the first victory in doubles, and freshmen Eleonore and Virginie Tchakarova followed in similar fashion to take the doubles point.

“We came out ready to go against (Eastern),” Elkin said. “We started off super strong and knew we were stronger at doubles.”

In singles play, Eskauriatza and Eleonore added a pair of wins for the Racers. Needing another point for the team win, Blue came through for Murray State.

After splitting the first two sets at the No. 4 draw, Blue found herself down 4-5 in the third set before gaining a 6-5 lead.

“I had never felt so much adrenaline at the end of the match so I screamed ‘Go Racers’ because my body was shaking,” Blue said. “I kept telling myself to not miss the ball.”

After a short rally, Blue forced an error to win the set 7-5 and more importantly, the match.

“I don’t think I will ever forget that point because it felt like what winning the OVC would feel like,” Blue said. “It wasn’t because I had won but because we as a team had beaten (Eastern).”

Murray State’s victory ended Eastern’s 30-match conference winning streak dating back to 2011. While one streak ended, another stayed alive as Blue maintained her own unbeaten streak. Since arriving at Murray State, Blue hasn’t lost a conference match and currently sits at 15-0.

“I like to win, and that is what it comes down to,” Blue said. “If anything the streak gives me a confidence boost and shows me that I can win this match.”

Lori Allen/The News Sophomore Megan Blue returns a ball during a match.

Lori Allen/The News
Sophomore Megan Blue returns a ball during a match.

Its reign as the only undefeated team in the OVC was short lived, as Murray State lost Sunday at Morehead State.

“It was tough because I didn’t want to take away from what we had done on Saturday,” Elkin said. “Maybe I didn’t focus them enough because every single match is important.”

The match began with doubles, where the Tchakarova sisters fell in a tiebreaker 7-8 (1-7).

With the Racers behind 1-0, they needed four singles victories to stay undefeated. While Blue and the Tchakarovas remained unbeaten in singles play, Eskauriatza fell in three sets to earn her first loss in conference play.

“I think the loss will show the team that every match is equally important,” Elkin said. “Whether it is this weekend or next week at the tournament, we have to stay focused and I think something came positive out of it.”

Murray State now turns its attention to its final two matches of the year. While the Racers are tied with Eastern with one loss, two victories this weekend would give the Racers the top seed at the OVC Championships.

“We know how important these matches are, and UT Martin is playing for a spot in the tournament and Southeast Missouri State beat Morehead State,” Elkin said. “We

have to play hard and know what is on the line and being the top seed is what these girls deserve.”

The team plays at noon Saturday at SEMO and ends its regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday at UT Martin.

 

Story by Tom Via, Staff writer