The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Women’s Tennis: Vanderbilt punches their championship ticket with biggest win of the season

Facing a top three opponent, the Commodores answered the call and are headed to Seattle.
Bridget+Stammel+doing+a+coin-flip+style+serve%2C+as+photographed+on+Oct.+9%2C+2022+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FOphelia+Lu%29.
Bridget Stammel doing a coin-flip style serve, as photographed on Oct. 9, 2022 (Hustler Multimedia/Ophelia Lu).

Coming off their dual match win against Northwestern, the Commodores traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, to participate in the ITA Kickoff Weekend. Vanderbilt came into the weekend ranked No. 21 in the nation. The schools competing against the Commodores were Illinois, Furman and No. 3 NC State.

On Saturday, NC State took on Illinois while the Commodores were pitted against Furman. The winners of each match would square off on Sunday with a trip to the 2023 ITA National Team Indoor Championship on the line. 

Vanderbilt came out firing on all cylinders against the Paladins. It won its doubles point, highlighted by Anessa Lee and Celia Belle-Mohr defeating Alexa Griffith and Madison Dillon 6-1. The Lee and Belle-Mohr pairing has now won seven matches in a row.

The Commodores then swept their singles matches, as Lee, Belle-Mohr, Marcella Cruz, Amy Stevens, Bridget Stammel, and Holy Staff all won in straight sets.

“It was a stupendous start for the [Commodores] in Raleigh today. After a hard-fought doubles point, I’m proud of how our team came out in singles, jumping out to leads on all six courts,” said very pleased head coach Aleke Tsoubanos.

On the other side of things, NC State took care of business against Illinois, setting the stage for a clash of ranked programs the next day.

“We are very excited for an opportunity to play one of the top teams in the country in NC State tomorrow and I expect it to be a highly competitive match with a chance to advance to Seattle on the line,” said Tsoubanos.

Sunday got off to a less than auspicious start for Vanderbilt, as it dropped its doubles point to the Wolfpack. Gina Dittman and Amelia Rajecki successfully snapped the long-standing Lee/Belle-Mohr doubles winning streak. 

However, the Commodores put their heads down and continued to grind. Lee struck first, defeating Dittman, 6-1, 6-4. Stevens followed with a dramatic three set victory over Anna Zyryanova, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. This set the stage for Anna Ross, who faced Rajecki (No. 23 in the country) with a chance to tie the match. Ross was able to do just that, taking down her fierce opponent in three sets, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5. 

Tensions were at an all-time high as all attention shifted to the decisive match between Staff and Abigail Renchelli (No. 25 in the country). The first two sets were split, 7-6, 5-7. In the third set, Staff pulled away and defeated Renchelli, 6-2. With her huge victory, Staff propelled the Commodores to the 2023 ITA National Team Indoor Championship.

“Holy moly! What an incredible match this group played today. I’m so proud of our team for the fight and heart they showed today on the road against one of the best teams in the country,” said Tsoubanos.

Vanderbilt is off to an incredible start this spring. Its impressive performance against a top three program in the nation is the culmination of gritty performances its turned in against stiff competition to start the season.

“I can’t wait to see this team compete again at the National Indoor Championship in Seattle,” said Tsoubanos.

Before that, though, the Commodores will host Louisville this Friday, Feb. 3. Vanderbilt will then take the trip to the Emerald City and compete in the 2023 ITA National Team Indoor Championship from Feb. 10 to Feb. 13.

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About the Contributor
Jonah Barbin
Jonah Barbin, Sports Podcast Producer
Jonah Barbin (‘25) is majoring in human and organizational development and cinema and media studies. In addition to writing about sports, you can catch him acting, scouring the fantasy football waiver wire, playing golf and fantasizing about what Odell Beckham Jr.’s career would have been if the Giants never traded him. You can reach him at [email protected].
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