GAINESVILLE, Fla. (April 22,2022) - For the second consecutive season, the Tennessee women's tennis team has advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Championship after defeating 12th-ranked Auburn, 4-2, Friday night at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
Rebeka Mertena was the hero in singles, delivering the match-clinching point, but it was the doubles onslaught that propelled Tennessee (15-8) to victory in the quarterfinals.
The Lady Volunteers came out white hot, quickly going ahead multiple games on all three courts. Tenika McGiffin and Elza Tomase set the tone for the doubles, blanking the Auburn pairing of Georgie Axon/Adeline Flach, 6-0. 71st-ranked Esther Adeshina and Rebeka Mertena sealed the deal with a top-10 victory, downing ninth-ranked Selin Ovunc/Ariana Arseneault, 6-3, on Court 1.
"That was just a fantastic performance from the girls," associate head coach Jarryd Chaplin said. "The nature of tournament tennis is you celebrate it, but we've got work to do tomorrow. I think the opportunity to try and repeat a performance like that should be pretty exciting for our girls. They can do it, I know they can and that is what we are going to try to do tomorrow."
Mertena finished the job on Court 1, but it was her second set that really shifted the momentum of the match in favor of Tennessee. The senior had dropped the first set, 4-6, and went to a tiebreaker in the second. Auburn's Selin Ovunc jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak, but Mertena wasn't done fighting. She rattled off the next five points to claim the breaker and force a third set. From there, she never looked back, claiming a 6-2 third-set win and sending the Lady Vols home victorious.
"I just trusted whatever I was doing," Mertena said, discussing how she flipped the script in the tiebreak. "I tried to focus on doing what I could do best and playing everything point-by-point. I knew from the beginning of that match that I was going to win, I just had to trust myself and say 'I got this.'"
Auburn posted the first two points of singles play, winning on Courts 2 and 4. Tennessee, carrying the fight from Mertena's match to the other courts, quickly countered with answers on Courts 3 and 5.
Elza Tomase nabbed the first singles win for the Lady Vols, downing Carolyn Ansari 6-3, 7-5 on Court 3. Daria Kuczer quickly followed suit. After winning the first set, 6-4, then dropping the next stanza, 4-6. Kuczer buckled down and got the job done with a 6-3 winner in the third.
Full results from Friday night's match can be found below.
The Lady Vols take on three-seed Georgia in the semifinals of the SEC tournament at 3 p.m. at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex. Tickets to the match can be purchased here. For the first time this season, Tennessee will be featured on SEC Network +, available to all who can view SEC Network. The broadcast for Saturday's match can be found here.
Tennessee looks to avenge its loss to Georgia in the semifinals of last season's SEC tournament. The Bulldogs downed the Lady Vols 4-0 in Tuscaloosa on their way to the tournament championship.
ELZA CRACKS THE FRESHMAN TOP-10
Elza Tomase's straight-sets victory on Court 3 earned her the 28th victory of her season. That puts her seventh in freshman singles victories in program history.
BEKS TO 80
Clinching the match on Court 1, Rebeka Mertena tallied her 80th singles win as a Lady Vol.
#26 Tennessee 4, #12 Auburn 2
1. #34 Mertena, Rebeka (TENN) def. #35 Selin Ovunc (AU) 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2
2. #65 Ariana Arseneault (AU) def. #60 McGiffin, Tenika (TENN) 6-2, 6-3
3. #121 Tomase, Elza (TENN) def. #107 Carolyn Ansari (AU) 6-3, 7-5
4. Georgie Axon (AU) def. Adeshina, Esther (TENN) 7-6 (8-6), 6-3
5. Kuczer, Daria (TENN) def. Adeline Flach (AU) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
6. Yu Chen (AU) vs. Molinaro, Eleonora (TENN) 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-3), 3-2, unfinished
1. #71 Mertena, Rebeka/Adeshina, Esther (TENN) def. #9 Selin Ovunc/Ariana Arseneault (AU) 6-3
2. McGiffin, Tenika/Tomase, Elza (TENN) def. Georgie Axon/Adeline Flach (AU) 6-0
3. Carolyn Ansari/Madeline Meredith (AU) vs. Molinaro, Eleonora/Kuczer, Daria (TENN) 4-3, unfinished