Penn State Women¡¯s Tennis Edges Out Iowa, 4-3, to Advance at Big Ten Championships
CHAMPAIGN, Ill., April 24, 2003 ¨C With the match on the line, sophomore Sarah Spence (Calgary, Alberta) came through in a big way, winning her singles contest in three sets to break a 3-3 deadlock and give the ninth-seeded Penn State women¡¯s tennis team a 4-3 victory over eighth-seeded Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Championships at Illinois¡¯ Atkins Tennis Center. The Lady Lions will advance to tomorrow¡¯s quarterfinals, where they will tangle with top-seeded Minnesota at 10 a.m. ET at the same venue.
Today¡¯s match followed nearly the same course as the regular season match-up between the two teams last weekend, which Iowa won, 4-3. Penn State took a 1-0 lead early by winning the first two doubles matches. Just as it did last weekend, Iowa came back to tie the match at three, winning three of the first five singles matches. However, this time the Lady Lions held off the Hawkeyes in a dramatic three-set battle at No. 6 singles to clinch the victory.
Penn State¡¯s No. 1 doubles duo of Leigh Ann Merryman (Coto de Caza, Calif.) and Maaria Husain (Marion, Ohio) got things rolling with a solid 8-5 win over Steffi Hoch and Gloria Okino. Megan Marton (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Judy Wang (Eagan, Minn.) followed suit in the No. 2 match, topping Cassie Haas and Deni Alexandrova by a score of 8-6. With the doubles point sealed up, the final doubles match was abandoned with Penn State ahead in the middle of a tiebreaker.
Husain picked up the first singles win for Penn State, dropping Okino in straight sets in the No. 3 match. The win marked Husain¡¯s third-consecutive victory, and the sophomore has now won four of her last five singles matches. Freshman Lindsay Downing (Phoenix, Ariz.) also won her No. 5 match with Alexandrova in straight sets to give the Lady Lions their third point of the match. Downing now sports the team¡¯s best singles record at 11-10 overall in dual meets.
With the match tied at 3, everything came down to the No. 6 battle between Spence and Iowa¡¯s Jennifer Hodgman. Interestingly, the two met under the same circumstances last weekend, when Hodgman defeated Spence in three sets to give Iowa the win. Once again, Hodgman went ahead after winning the opening set, but Spence, who has been battling injuries of late, responded to knot the match at one set apiece. In the decisive third set, Spence showed veteran poise, shutting out Hodgman to avenge the recent loss and score Penn State¡¯s winning point.
Penn State head coach Buffy Baker was pleased with her team¡¯s style of play today. ¡°I think overall, in the spots where we won, we competed very well today,¡± said Baker. ¡°We played smart and we maintained our composure. In close matches, that¡¯s what makes the difference.¡±
The Lady Lions improved to 8-13 overall with the win, while the Hawkeyes closed their season at 7-13.
No. 9 Penn State 4, No. 8 Iowa 3 Singles: 1) Steffi Hoch (Iowa) def. Megan Marton 7-5, 6-2 2) Cassie Haas (Iowa) def. Leigh Ann Merryman 7-6, 6-4 3) Maaria Husain (PSU) def. Gloria Okino 7-6, 6-2 4) Chelsea Glynn (Iowa) def. Judy Wang 7-6 (1), 6-4 5) Lindsay Downing (PSU) def. Deni Alexandrova 7-6 (6), 6-1 6) Sarah Spence (PSU) def. Jennifer Hodgman 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 Doubles: 1) Merryman/Husain (PSU) def. Hoch/Okino 8-5 2) Marton/Wang (PSU) def. Haas/Alexandrova 8-6 3) Spence/Downing (PSU) led Hodgman/Glynn 8-8 (4-2)