Story by Blake Bernier, Staff writer
The women’s tennis team defeated Eastern Kentucky in the championship match on April 19 for the second straight year to win the OVC title.
After finishing the regular season as co-champions with Eastern, the Racers showed their postseason prowess by beating Eastern Illinois 4-0 in the semifinals then following it with a 4-2 victory over Eastern.
The title was the eighth in Racer history and the first for Head Coach Jorge Caetano, who took over in August.
“It was a close match,” Caetano said. “We took the crucial doubles point and after that we got started in the singles but with only four courts we only had 1-4 playing, and we lost the first set in three of the four matches.”
The match was a mirror image to the previous meetings between the two teams. In the regular season the Racers beat Eastern 5-2 and in last year’s championship match, the Racers won 4-1.
In the 2015 championship, senior Andrea Eskauriatza clinched the match point by defeating the OVC Player of the Year, Amandine Faouzi from Eastern, despite losing the first set.
“I’m so happy for her,” Caetano said. “She really played her heart out and she deserved it so much. I’m really happy that she was able to win her final match in the OVC.”
Caetano said that Eskauriatza was challenged by leg cramps in the third set but pushed through the pain to secure the victory.
After the match was over she went to the trainers to get full body cramps evaluated.
In the race for four points in the competition, the Racers struck first. Winning the doubles point and taking a 1-0 lead was the formula the Racers used all season long.
Freshman Nancy Karaky, the OVC Freshman of the Year, was the first to complete a singles match and earned the Racers their second point.
The next two matches were wins by Eastern and that left the score tied at 2-2.
Sophomore Alena Vasileva completed her match and the Racers regained the lead with two matches still in progress. Eskauriatza was up in the second set after dropping the first, making a third set imminent. Meanwhile, junior Erin Patton had won 6-1 in the first set of her match.
With a title on the line, Eskauriatza closed out her match, winning sets two and three 6-4, 6-4 for the deciding point in the competition.
Once the title was won, the remaining match was stopped. Patton was one game from the victory as the score was 5-1.
After winning the first set, Patton needed just two points to win her match, but with Eskauriatza gaining the deciding team point, the final points were never played.
With the NCAA Tournament around the corner, Patton will be putting her undefeated record on the line again.
The last time a women’s tennis player went undefeated for an entire season was in 1968 when Martie Bastin went 10-0.
Now the Racers wait to find out from the NCAA on who they will match up against in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be at 4 p.m. April 28.