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No. 8 women’s tennis wins pair of ITA Kickoff Weekend matches

The Cavaliers knocked off both Washington State and South Carolina to secure their ticket to the ITA National Indoor Team Championships

<p>Freshman Annabelle Xu had a strong weekend, winning of her doubles points against both Washington State and South Carolina.</p>

Freshman Annabelle Xu had a strong weekend, winning of her doubles points against both Washington State and South Carolina.

No. 8 Virginia women’s tennis swept its opponents over a weekend-long tournament in Charlottesville at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kickoff Weekend. To reach the final, the Cavaliers (4-0)  first knocked off Washington State Friday, then defeated South Carolina Saturday to claim the championship. Junior Hibah Shaikh had a particularly strong weekend, winning both of her singles matches in straight sets to aid the team to victory.

Match 1 - Jan. 27 vs. Washington State

Virginia opened the four-team tournament with a 4-1 victory over Washington State, with the Cavaliers surrendering just one singles point to the Cougars (2-1) en route to a dominant victory.

Sophomore Elaine Chervinsky and junior Sara Ziodato were the first to finish, defeating sophomores Elyse Tse and Hania Abouelsaad 6-3. Virginia then picked up the doubles point with another 6-3 win from senior Natasha Subhash and freshman Annabelle Xu over junior Fifa Kumhom and freshman Yura Nakagawa. 

The third and final doubles match concluded in a Virginia win as well. Graduate student Julia Adams and sophomore Melodie Collard pulled out a 6-4 victory over sophomore Maxine Murphy and freshman Eva Alvarez Sande. 

As the match moved into singles, the Cavaliers grew even more dominant. Collard was the first to finish, beating sophomore Stefaniia Mikhailova 6-1, 6-1. Close behind her was Subhash, with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Sande. 

At this point, Virginia needed only one more singles win to clinch the match victory. However, trouble was brewing on court one. Adams currently sits at No. 34 in the nation for collegiate women’s tennis players, yet faced trouble with Murphy. After taking the first set 6-2, Murphy flipped the script and took the second set 6-2. Momentum remained in her favor, and Adams dropped the third set 3-6. 

With the Cavaliers still in the hunt for that elusive fourth point, Shaikh delivered. She fought off Kumhom for a 6-4, 6-3 win, good to secure the match in Virginia’s favor.

Match 2 - Jan. 28 vs. South Carolina

With a trip to the ITA National Indoor Team Championship on the line, Virginia shut down South Carolina by a score of 4-1. The Cavaliers took both doubles matches and relied on two dominant second sets from Ziodato and Shaikh to clinch the victory.

Tensions ran high from the very beginning of the match, as both Adams and Collard on court one and Subhash and Xu on court two fought back to force tiebreakers after being down 5-3. Both courts pulled ahead in these tiebreakers to secure the highly fiercely contested doubles point for the Cavaliers.

Chervinsky and Ziodato had just evened the score to 6-6 when play was suspended due to the two other pairs of Cavaliers winning their games.

Heading into singles play, Virginia needed to win three out of six matches. Chervinsky delivered the first win in dominant fashion, defeating senior Elise Mills 6-1, 6-3. 

The next to finish was court one, on which Adams suffered another heartbreaking defeat similar to her loss against Murphy. This time, South Carolina’s senior Ayana Akli knocked off Adams 6-1, 6-3.

Luckily, things began looking up for Virginia over on court four. After fighting to take the first set 6-4, Ziodato pulled out a phenomenal 6-0 win in the second set over senior Ana Cruz to get the Cavaliers within one point of match victory.

Fittingly enough, court six went to a tiebreaker in the first set. Shaikh battled freshman Alice Otis to take the tiebreaker 9-7 but then delivered the final blow in a 6-2 second set. With that win, the Cavaliers punched their ticket to Seattle, Wash. for the ITA National Indoor Team Championship. 

“I’m really proud of the way our team approached today’s match,” said Coach Sara O’Leary. “They played with focus, energy, determination and a lot of resilience. To be down match points in all three doubles matches and still find a way to win says a lot about their resilience, grit and just willingness to fight through those uncomfortable moments.” 

Next month, the Cavaliers will travel to Seattle, Wash. for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. This was their second consecutive year qualifying for the event. But first, Virginia must take on William & Mary at home next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. 


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