A rainy beginning of March did not dampen a hot February finish as No. 29 ASU women’s tennis defeated Western Michigan 7-0.
Doubles pairings were vastly different than in the past. After being on the third court on the weekend of Feb. 22, junior Leighann Sahagun was moved to the first court. She got a new partner in freshman Alex Osborne.
Sophomore Desirae Krawczyk moved to court three with a new partner, sophomore Ebony Panoho.
“We’re still experimenting with the teams,” McInerney said.
McInerney acknowledged that in the past they had established duos, but with new and younger players, they needed to test different players together.
The second court did not change; sophomore Stephanie Vlad remained with junior Joanna Smith.
Initially, the lineup changes looked to be effective. The three teams each took 4-1 leads.
Krawczyk and Panoho wrapped their match up relatively quickly and finished 8-2.
The other two courts struggled to finish their match, and Vlad/Smith’s lead did not grow further than three points.
“It appeared that they were hitting the ball bigger than they were,” Vlad said. “(Smith and I) were a little bit timid actually crossing and putting some volleys away.”
Sahagun and Osborne’s lead was cut to 7-5.
“We just kind of lost momentum,” Osborne said.
She attributed this to inconsistent serving. They did not get a chance to finish their match – Vlad and Smith made it unnecessary, winning their own set 8-4.
ASU got the point and led 1-0.
McInerney said she would likely continue changing the teams around.
“In doubles you have to be a little bit risky, and I think the teams we’ve had so far have been playing a little bit too conservatively,” she said.
ASU started singles slowly against the unranked team. Each of the first three courts fell behind 0-1.
Panoho and Smith, though, started quickly. Smith swept the first set, and Panoho won 6-2 after getting a quick 4-1 lead.
Panoho would go on to get the first singles point 6-2, 6-1.
No. 48 Vlad and No. 122 Krawczyk picked up their performance after the first point lost.
Krawczyk played against senior Kathleen Hawkins, who had a powerful swing but lacked agility on her feet. Hawkins kept the score close in the first set but eventually lost 6-3. The second set was less competitive, and Krawczyk walked away with a 6-1 victory and match-clinching point.
Vlad jumped on her opponent, senior Nini Sujashvii, and took a 4-1 lead. Sujashvili began to get emotional and yell at herself.
“She’d get pretty mad, pretty quickly,” Vlad said. “It was just important for me to stay concentrated.”
Vlad won six straight points in the first set (6-1). She looked to be in for a quick match, but Sujashvili came racing back.
Vlad fell behind 0-3 in the second set.
Sahagun did the same in her first set. She was not to be denied, though. Her powerful strokes cut her deficit to 3-2, and she went on to win the set 6-4.
This foreshadowed Vlad’s second set performance. She hit her spots, and Sujashvili barely missed her own. Sujashvili’s emotions began to rise.
“There were moments in the second set where it was very close, and it seemed as though her emotions got the better of her,” Vlad said.
After a couple calls by the line judge with which Sujashvili disagreed, she began to crack; though she played well, it was evident Vlad was gaining the upper hand.
Vlad said she used her own backhand to create difficult backhand shots for Sujashvili.
“She seemed to be generating a lot more pace off her fronthand side,” Vlad said.
Vlad pulled out the victory 6-3.
Sahagun did not look back after her first set comeback. She bested her former doubles opponent and won 6-4, 6-2.
Freshman Kassidy Jump wrapped up her match as well. She fell behind early in her first set and was neck-and-neck her second. She won 6-3, 6-4.
Smith, after starting on a tear, struggled in her second set. She fell behind 5-4.
McInerney said Smith has struggled with finishing.
“I think she sort of sees the finish line and starts thinking about that too much,” McInerney said.
Smith stopped thinking about it and started doing it. She won three consecutive points in the set and walked away with a 6-1, 7-5 victory.
This gave ASU their seventh point and a 7-0 sweep.
“Western Michigan has a good team. They’re pretty feisty (and) solid all the way down,” McInerney said. “They’re battle tested.”
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