Eades clinches match to advance UK to quarterfinals
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - No. 11 Kentucky upsets No. 6 South Carolina, 4-3, to advance to the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Sophomore Ellie Eades took care of business on Court 3 to clinch the tied-up contest.
UK will face No. 3 Tennessee tomorrow at the Billingsley Tennis Center for a 4 p.m. EST matchup.
Kentucky entered today's competition looking for redemption after the Gamecocks eliminated the Cats from the tournament last year with a 4-1 defeat. Also falling to South Carolina in the 2023 regular season, UK was ready to battle despite rough weather delaying play in Arkansas.
Beginning the match with doubles competition, South Carolina's pair of Ana Cruz and Allie Gretkowski defeated Lidia Gonzalez and Zoe Hammond, 6-1, on Court 3. However, Kentucky's Ellie Eades and Florencia Urrutia leveled the playing field by beating their Gamecock foes, 6-1. It was the ranked matchup of No. 22 Carlota Molina and Elizabeth Stevens who fell to No. 38 Ayana Akli and Sarah Hamner, 6-4, that gave South Carolina the advantage.
Dropping the doubles point for only the ninth time this season, Kentucky dug deep ready to fight hard in singles play.
No. 42-ranked singles player Urrutia struggled to find her first win of the tournament in a ranked battle of her own. Taking on No. 9 Alki, Urrutia fell 3-6, 4-6 on Court 1 to put the Gamecocks up 2-0. However, Gonzalez on Court 5 was able to find a singles victory to put the Cats on the board and get the ball rolling for Kentucky. Her 6-3, 6-3 sweep was just the momentum the Wildcats needed moving forward in the contest.
With a one-point deficit, Kentucky looked for its next score to equalize the competition. Hammond answered the call with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory on Court 6 over Otis to tie the match, 2-2. In a tough battle on Court 3, No. 118 Stevens rallied but ultimately fell to her No. 22-ranked South Carolina opponent who won 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (8-6).
Not giving up the fight, Kentucky continued to battle through singles play. With another shot to tie the contest, Molina went back and forth with Misa Malkin on Court 5. Molina came out on top, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, to change the scoreboard to 3-3.
Eades, on Court 3, would be the deciding factor for Kentucky's fate as she rallied against Mulville. The sophomore lost the first set 2-6 but was able to fight back for an impressive 6-1 win in the second set. With the match on the line, Eades and Mulville were tied in the third set. However, coming out victorious in the tie breaker, Eades clinched the match for Kentucky, 7-6 (7-4).
The 4-3 Kentucky victory advanced the program to the quarterfinal round of the tournament. In the regular season, the Cats faced the Volunteers at home but fell in the match, 2-4.
#57 Kentucky 4, #30 South Carlolina, 3
1. #38 Ayana Akli/Sarah Hamner (SC) def. #22 Carlota Molina/Elizabeth Stevens (UK) 6-4
2. Ellie Eades/Florence Urrutia (UK) def. Gracie Mulville/Alice Otis (SC) 6-1
3. Ana Cruz/Allie Gretkowski (SC) def. Lidia Gonzalez/Zoe Hammond (UK) 6-1
1. #9 Ayana Akli (SC) def. #42 Florence Urrutia (UK) 6-3, 6-4
2. #22 Sarah Hamner (SC) def. #118 Elizabeth Stevens (UK) 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (8-6)
3. Ellie Eades (UK) def. Gracie Mulville (SC) 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)
4. Carlota Molina (UK) def. Misa Malkin (SC) 1-6, 6-3, 6-4
5. Lidia Gonzalez (UK) def. Elise Mills (SC) 6-3, 6-3
6.Zoe Hammond (UK) def. Alice Otis (SC) 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (15,6,2,4,3)