BATON ROUGE, La. - With their postseason chances hanging in the balance, sophomore Natalie Suk fought off two match points and rallied to clinch a 4-3 win for the Ole Miss women's tennis team against Tennessee in the first round of the SEC Championship Wednesday.
In the regular season meeting, Suk lost in straight sets to Eve Repic at court two. This time, Suk won the first set 7-5. Repic raced through the second set 6-1 forcing a deciding set. Suk faced two match points at 5-3, 40-30, but fought them off and won three straight games to send it to a tiebreaker. She got off to a good start in the breaker and held on to win it 7-3 to send the Rebels on to a second round meeting against fifth-seeded South Carolina.
The Rebels began the day with 6-3 wins on courts three and one to secure the doubles point. They built a 3-0 lead as senior Mai El Kamash downed Kim Kermet 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3 singles and then freshman Allie Sanford stepped into the lineup at No. 5 and downed UT's Mary Catherine Meredith 6-4, 6-2.
Tennessee earned two straight set wins on courts one and four and a three-setter on six to tie the match and set up the final outcome on court two.
• The Rebels are now 13-10 overall and advance to face the No. 5 seed, South Carolina Thursday at 2 p.m.
• It marked the sixth 4-3 match the Rebels have played this year. • Natalie Suk improved to 9-9 at No. 2 singles and clinched her first match of the year. • Arianne Hartono and Mai El Kamash improved to 10-7 at No. 1 doubles.
• Zalina Khairudinova and Marija Milutinovic improved to 8-4 at No. 3 doubles.
Quoting Head coach Mark Beyers... "This was another battle like every match in the SEC this year. It's nice to finally come out on the good end of one of these nail-biters. Now we have to get ready for South Carolina. That was one of the matches we let slip away during the regular season, and we have an opportunity to avenge that loss."
Natalie Suk on her match... "I was trying to take it one point at a time and really just tried to stay in my match. When I looked over at court six I realized I was the last match. Honestly I knew if we don't win we will not make NCAAs. I was fighting for something a lot bigger than that match."
Next up... Ole Miss heads to Baton Rouge, Louisiana next week for the SEC Tournament.
For more information on Ole Miss Women's Tennis, follow the Rebels on Twitter @OleMissWTennis, on Facebook at OleMissWTennis and on Instagram at OleMissWTennis. Also follow Coach Beyers on Twitter, @MarkBeyers.