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No. 5 Women’s tennis splits four matches

The No. 5 Virginia women’s tennis team kept busy during Spring Break, battling four ranked opponents in matches at home and on the road.

After starting the weekend with a 5-2 loss to No. 6 North Carolina (13-3, 5-1 ACC), the Cavaliers (10-3, 4-1 ACC) rebounded to shut out then-No. 61 Maryland (5-6, 1-5 ACC). Virginia then split two away matches, falling to No. 12 Georgia (11-2, 4-0 SEC) before defeating No. 13 Michigan (8-3, 0-0 Big Ten).

The match against the Tar Heels featured several big matchups on the doubles and singles courts. Bouncing back from a loss at No. 2 doubles, ninth-ranked sophomore Julia Elbaba and freshman Rachel Pierson defeated fifth-ranked junior Caroline Price and sophomore Whitney Kay. A victory at No. 3 gave the Cavaliers the doubles point and an early 1-0 lead.

However, sophomore Stephanie Nauta accounted for Virginia’s only singles point, defeating No. 83 Kay 6-2, 6-2. North Carolina rattled off five straight singles victories to hand the Cavaliers their first conference loss of the season.

Virginia bounced back from Saturday’s loss by shutting out Maryland the next day, 7-0. The Cavaliers exhibited a strong all-around performance against the Terrapins and Nauta defeated sophomore Nataliya Bredikhina 6-2, 2-6, 10-3 to remain undefeated on the season.

On the road, Virginia fell to Georgia in a close 4-3 match. After losing the doubles point, Pierson defeated No. 45 senior Lilly Kimbell, 6-1, 6-1, to even the score. The lead went back and forth, boiling down to the final match at No. 6 where senior Li Xi fell to sophomore Mia King, 7-6, 6-2, to seal the Bulldogs win.

The Cavaliers then travelled to Ann Arbor, Mich. Friday, defeating the Wolverines, 5-2. After winning the doubles point, Michigan extended its lead to 2-0 when sophomore Amy Zhu defeated Epstein, 6-4, 6-2. A victory at No. 3 brought Virginia within one, and Elbaba defeated No. 7 junior Emina Bektas, 6-4, 6-3, to tie the match. Collins clinched the win for the Cavaliers while victories by Pierson and Xi also contributed to Michigan’s defeat.

Virginia will return to the court to host new ACC opponents No. 25 Notre Dame and Pittsburgh March 21 and 23.

—compiled by Kristen Cauley