Tennis clinches OVC regular season title

Lori Allen/The News Freshman Verginie Tchakarova plays against Belmont at the Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts.
Lori Allen/The News Freshman Verginie Tchakarova plays against Belmont at the Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts.

Lori Allen/The News
Freshman Verginie Tchakarova plays against Belmont at the Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts.

A pair of victories against Southeast Missouri State and UT Martin earned women’s tennis its first OVC regular season championship in more than a decade.

With the victories, Murray State earned the top seed in this weekend’s OVC Tournament in Paducah, Ky., and Head Coach Olga Elkin was proud of the way her team to played with the championship a match away.

“We knew what was on the line and didn’t let the pressure change the way we played,” Elkin said. “We try not to talk about outcomes to not put any pressure on anyone.”

The pressure was two victories by the Racers to be the top seed and earn a share of the title with Eastern Kentucky who the Racers beat two weeks ago.

After defeating Southeast Missouri State 6-1 on Saturday, the Racers took on UT Martin with the championship on the line.

The Racers got off to a slow start as No. 1 doubles freshmen duo of Eleonore and Verginie Tchakarova lost 8-4. With the loss, Murray State needed both remaining teams to overcome deficits to take the doubles point.

On court three, senior Carla Suga and sophomore Megan Blue were tied 8-8 and headed for tiebreakers.

“We knew that (UT Martin) was a really good doubles team and we saw that the twins lost so we knew it was on us,” Suga said.

With the first point of the match on the line, Suga and Blue dominated the final game with a 7-2 victory in the tiebreakers.

Suga credited the team’s practice routine for the added confidence when the match was tight.

“Coach Elkin has us playing tiebreakers in practice and it has become second nature for us,” Suga said.

With the teams tied at one, the final doubles match went to a tiebreaker as well.

Junior Andrea Eskauriatza and sophomore Erin Patton, who had not lost a doubles match in conference play, weren’t nervous.

“It was a tough doubles match but it came to the tiebreaker – I was very confident,” Eskauriatza said.

Once again the Racers dominated in the extra points and won 7-1 to take the match and the valuable doubles point.

“It was really exciting because we knew it was a must-win match so we could be undefeated and win the doubles point,” Patton said. “The momentum of the doubles really carried over into my singles match because the whole team was fired up.”

With the doubles point on their side, the Racers looked to take the championship quickly. After Eskauriatza won 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 1 draw, she was joined by Eleonore Tchakarova who won 6-4, 6-1.

Just one victory away from the title, the focus shifted to Patton at the No. 6 draw. After taking the first set 6-2, Patton battled in the second set.

After falling behind 3-2 in set, Patton recom-posed herself to take next three games.

Serving for the championship, Patton was able to force an error by her opponent bring the Racers the title.

“It is really exciting to know that I won the championship with my match,” Patton said. “What makes it even better was knowing that it got us the bye into the semifinals.”

The win for Patton came at the right time for Racers, as she had lost three consecutive matches. With the championship point on her side, Patton believes the win will help her this weekend.

Said Patton: “I haven’t been playing so well in the my last few matches so getting this win gives me the confidence I need for the tournament.”

 

Story by Tom Via, Staff writer