Sophomore Stephanie Vlad’s racket struck the ground. The No. 50 sophomore was winning her first set, 3-2, but couldn’t seem to get an upper hand over unranked opponent freshman Marie Klocker on Sunday’s match against San Jose State.
“She made me play a lot of long points, and she was really physical,” Vlad said. “Her game was very frustrating for me because she definitely forced me to play a lot of balls.”
Vlad went up, 4-3, and eventually won the hard fought set, 6-4. Klocker’s energy and swagger was ebbing.
Klocker and freshman Gaelle Rey played against juniors Leighann Sahagun and Joanna Smith in doubles to start the match, and was full of intensity. They pushed Sahagun and Smith to 5-2.
At this point, Vlad and sophomore Ebony Panoho had won their doubles match on the third court, and sophomore Desirae Krawczyk and freshman Kassidy Jump won their match on the second.
The first court match was unfinished, and ASU got the doubles points that pushed needed momentum in their favor.
While Vlad and Klocker were battling over the first set, Krawczyk demolished her opponent, Rey, 6-2 in hers, and looked to have yet another easy match under her belt.
Rey fought back. The second set ended in her favor, 7-5.
“I think she stepped up her game a little bit,” Krawczyk said. “(I) started going for it a little bit too much.”
At this point in the game, most of the other matches had finished. Smith seemed to have the only match without much competition (6-3, 6-3).
Jump lost her first set (6-4) but battled back in the second. She won three straight sets en route to a 6-3 victory.
This pushed Jump into the third-set tiebreaker round. Under new ITA guidelines, the full third set was replaced by a tiebreaker to 10 points.
Jump defeated Jessica Willett 10-2.
Panoho didn’t play against Montana State Saturday due to a wrist injury that had been affecting her play.
“We knew San Jose State’s a good team, so we certainly felt we needed her,” Coach Sheila McInerney said.
Panoho struggled in singles play and lost in two sets (6-2, 6-3).
“You don’t practice for a week, it’s hard to come out and play well against a good player,” McInerney said.
Krawczyk’s match headed into a tiebreaker after Rey defeated her in the No. 91 player in her second set.
She said she focused on playing her same game pattern and hitting her spots on the court during the tiebreaker round.
She won the set, 7-5, and got another point for ASU.
Sahagun played well in her first set and won 6-3. The second set brought more of the intensity San Jose had been displaying all game. Sabi Leon Chao, her opponent, took her to the brink, but Sahagun eeked out a 7-5 victory.
“San Jose State was competitive,” McInerney said. “They were feisty, they were tough.
Vlad took to the court to play the second set against Klocker.
“(Assistant coach) Clint (Letcher) told me to stay up on the baseline and take shots early,” Vlad said.
He told her she was allowing the balls to bounce more than they had to, and she could attack them earlier. This technique gave her a quick lead in the second set. Klocker’s energy seemed to be depleting as the match progressed.
“Since we had such long points, especially towards the end of the second (set) as well, it kind of put pressure on her to go for bigger shots,” Vlad said.
Vlad took the second set 6-1, and the match as a whole. This score is not indicative of the way Klocker played in the second set.
ASU won the match 6-1, but the score easily could have been a lot closer.
“I was impressed with (San Jose State’s) play,” McInerney said. “They actually were probably a little more physical than we were.”
ASU maintained their energy when the Spartans seemed to grow tired.
“Credit to our kids, they sort of bounced back and came through and played well at the end when they needed to,” McInerney said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @Logan_Newsman