By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- On Sunday, the No. 10 nationally ranked Clemson Tigers proved that they are indeed a contender for the NCAA Championship, as they knocked No. 19 ranked Vanderbilt out of the ITA Indoor National Championships. The Tigers quickly found themselves disadvantaged Vanderbilt after losing the doubles point and the completion of the first singles match, however junior Josipa Bek’s singles win got the Tigers started and there was no looking back.
Both Bek and junior Kerri Wong were key players for the Tigers in this championship round, coming from behind to tie the score 2-2 with their singles wins. However, sophomore Caroline Magnusson and her great performance against Vanderbilt’s Keilly Ulrey was what sealed the 4-2 victory for the Tigers.
Clemson, coming off a 7-0 victory over No. 61 Dartmouth on Saturday knew that they had what it took coming into the match to win however Vanderbilt had proven earlier in the season that they would be a difficult team to beat as they featured five ranked singles players and were coming off a win against No. 9 ranked Northwestern early last week.
Vanderbilt came out playing hard, showing Clemson that they were indeed capable of another upset as their flight two doubles team Chelsea Preeg and Jackie Wu defeated Clemson’s Maria Belaya and Caroline Magnusson 8-3. Clemson’s Nelly Ciolkowski and Klara Vyskocilova lost a close one in flight three doubles to Vanderbilt’s Lauren Mira and Keilly Ulry 8-6, giving Vanderbilt the doubles point and halting the flight one match where Keri Wong and Josipa Bek were leading Vanderbuilt’s Rachael Dillon and Alex Leatu 6-5.
Clemson freshman Klara Vyskocilova, while fighting illness, lost her match to No. 89 Chelsea Preeg, 7-5, 6-2 giving Vanderbilt the early 2-0 lead over the Tigers.
Josipa Bek, battled back in her first set at flight one singles against No. 82 Jackie Wu, winning the tiebreaker set 7-6(6), and then quickly defeating Wu in the second set with a score of 6-0 cutting the Vanderbilt lead to 1.
Nelly Ciolkowski tied up the match with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 64 Rachael Dillon at flight four. It was junior Kerri Wong’s match however that put the Tigers ahead for the first time in the match. No. 48 Wong came back from a 6-4 loss in her first set and a 4-3 deficit in the second set to defeat Vanderbilt’s highest rated player No. 50 Alex Leatu 7-5, 6-4 in their final two sets bringing the Clemson fans to their feet.
Clemson’s flight five and six singles matches started out quickly with Maria Belaya at flight five and Caroline Magnusson at flight six winning their first sets with ease. Belaya won her first set against No.119 Lauren Mira 6-3 however dropped the second set to Mira 6-4 causing a third set.
At flight six, Magnusson fought hard against Keilly Ulrey, winning the first set 6-2 and after several rallies Magnusson won the second set 6-3 and clinched the victory for Clemson.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my girls and the way they played this weekend,” Head Coach Nancy Harris stated. “I knew at the beginning of our season that this Vanderbilt match would be a telling point for our team. Our girls had to have courage to win this match, there were points that could have gone the other way but our girls had a sheer desire to be successful and it showed out on the court.”
The Tigers will now advance to Charlottesville, VA on February 18th-21st where they will be one of the final sixteen teams standing in the ITA Indoor National Tennis Championships.