It was obvious from the start that Memphis wouldn’t roll over and play dead.
In the end, it took close to four hours for the No. 21 ASU tennis team to beat No. 22 Memphis 5-2 on Monday.
The close finish was not unexpected.
“They compete like crazy,” ASU coach Sheila McInerney said. “I expected every bit of what we got today. Nothing surprised me.”
The Sun Devils (10-1) started by clinching the doubles point for the ninth time this season thanks to a gutsy performance from freshman Desirae Krawczyk and sophomore Leighann Sahagun.
After trailing the entire match, Sahagun and Krawczyk tied the match at 7-7. They eventually took the match and the doubles point for ASU 9-8 (2) in a tiebreak.
This wasn’t unfamiliar territory for Memphis. They had beaten No. 16 Virgina after losing the doubles point.
The Tigers won five of six singles matches against the Cavaliers and attempted to pull off the same feat against the Sun Devils.
Five of the six singles matches on Monday went to third sets. Only Cako won in straight sets 6-1, 6-1.
ASU was leading 3-1 in the match after a win from freshman Stephanie Vlad and a loss from Sahagun.
Then it came down to senior Hannah James to secure the win, and she didn’t even know.
“I had honestly no clue,” James said. “As soon as I won, (the team) screamed, and I got the impression. I asked them, ‘Did we win?’ They were like, ‘Yeah you got the fourth point!’ and I just felt so relieved.”
McInerney wasn’t surprised when it was James that scored the winning point.
“Hannah’s been playing really well and, let’s face it, she’s experienced. She’s won a lot of matches for us,” McInerney said. “She’s won some good three-setters this year, and she’s clinched a fair amount of matches for us to win the fourth point.”
With the victory clinched, sophomore Joanna Smith had the final match of the day.
“The pressure was kind of off of me,” Smith said. “At that point, it was just me grinding it out and trying to win it for myself.”
After trading leads in the final set, it came down to Smith’s serve to give her the edge.
“I was up 4-3, and then I went down 5-4, I was thinking, ‘If I can get this to 6-5 and serve for (the match), I can win this,’” Smith said.
Smith did get the match to 6-5 and used her serve to finalize the Sun Devils 5-2 win.
The win served as the proverbial cherry on top for ASU’s seven-game home stand.
The Sun Devils went 7-0 including three shutouts over San Jose State, Utah State and Saint Mary’s.
“To be 10-1 right now and playing well is a good thing,” McInerney said. “We’re going to Utah and Colorado, we’ll be playing indoors at high altitude, so it’s a totally different scenario. The good news is we’re going in with some confidence. … A match like this just toughens you up.”
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1.) Courtney Collins/Kelly Gray def. Cako/N. Smith: 8-6
2.) J. Smith/Panoho def. Tiffany Welcher/Alyssa Hibberd: 8-4
3.) Krawczyk/Sahagun def. Caroline Wegner/Stefani Mikesz: 9-8(2)
1.) Cako def. Collins: 6-1, 6-1
2.) Welcher def. Krawczyk: 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1
3.) Skylar Kuykendall def. Sahagun: 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-1
4.) Vlad def. Liza Tymchenko: 6-2, 0-6, 6-2
5.) James def. Hibberd: 3-6, 6-4, 6-0
6.) J. Smith def. Wegner: 6-2, 3-6, 7-5