Women’s Tennis: Commodores get their first SEC win of the season

Vanderbilt women’s tennis won their first conference match of the season versus Missouri on Sunday.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt women’s tennis competed against Missouri on March 13, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Anish Mago, Staff Writer

After losing their first three matches of their conference season, the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-4, 1-3) earned their first SEC victory with a win over the Missouri Tigers (6-10, 1-2) on Sunday, March 13th. After a strong 8-1 start to the season during their nonconference schedule, the Commodores hit a rough patch in their season, with three consecutive losses to Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Commodores, Sunday’s victory served as a reminder of their strength as a team.

“It was important. We’ve been talking all week about being more reliable competitors in all nine positions, the three doubles and six singles matches, and I think we did a much better job of that,” head coach Aleke Tsoubanos said. “I think the team responded to some tough conversations during the week very well against Missouri.”

Vanderbilt began the afternoon with a difficult wrestle for the doubles point. On the No. 3 court, junior Marcella Cruz and freshman Amy Stevens teamed up to win comfortably, 6-3, over their Tigers opponents. On the court next over, Vanderbilt’s No. 2 doubles pairing of Anessa Lee and Holly Staff could not bounce back after a slow start, falling 6-3. The loss moved the pressure to the No. 1 doubles court, where junior Anna Ross and graduate student Yufei Long would play to decide the first point of the match. Ross and Long came out strong on the top court and did not look back, winning the match 6-2 and earning Vanderbilt the first point of the match. 

“We’ve had some success in doubles thus far. I thought this weekend was better, but we can still find some improvement there. We haven’t quite clicked on all three courts yet,” Tsoubanos said. “The doubles point is obviously important, but it is also just a point. If we don’t get it, we have to be resilient and bounce back.”

After a competitive start to the match, it was the Tigers who came out with the first singles victory of the match. Lee fell to Mizzou’s Bronte Murgett, 6-3, 6-2, on the No. 1 court. With the match now tied 1-1, attention turned to the No. 5 court, where Stevens came out strong and cruised to victory, 6-1, 6-4. The freshman Stevens improved to 6-3 and bounced back after losing her last two singles matches.

With the match lead now regained, the Commodores did not relent. Cruz extended the Commodores’ lead to 3-1 on the No. 3 court with a 6-4, 6-2 victory, putting Vanderbilt just one win away from the decisive fourth point and match victory. All eyes turned to the No. 3 court, where Holly Staff battled against Mizzou’s Elys Ventura. Staff got out of the gates quickly in the first set, winning 6-2 and appearing to be headed for an uncontested victory. However, Ventura came out strong in the second set, maintaining the lead for most of the set before Staff began to battle back. In the end, Staff won the set 7-5, earning Vanderbilt’s fourth point of the afternoon and their ninth win of the season. 

In the only other match of the afternoon to finish, Long collected Vanderbilt’s fifth point of the afternoon in a competitive match on the No. 2 court. After winning the first set comfortably, 6-3, Long struggled and lost her second set, 5-7, before bouncing back to win her third set tiebreak, 11-9. On the No. 6 court, Dasha Kourkina won her first set 6-1 before having the match called off during the second set. 

The Commodores will look to keep their momentum going with matches at Texas A&M and LSU this upcoming weekend.