Jonathan Jacobskind/Staff Writer
Despite struggling to put opponents away as of late, FIU (5-12) managed to cash in on their second Sun Belt victory of the season. The Panthers downed in-state rival, Florida Atlantic, 5-2 on March 20.
The Panthers, who have not fared well playing away from the friendly confines of FIU Tennis Center posting a 2-10 road record, however, won two of three matches out of the doubles and registered four of six victories in the singles portion.
The victory over the Owls (9-5) puts Coach Melissa Applebaum-Dallau and her squad 2-1 against conference foes.
“Overall it was a match that the girls got to work on a lot of things with key areas of the game,” Applebaum-Dallau stated. “I’m really happy with the energy that they displayed on the court.”
The match could not have been won without the prominent display of tennis by Lisa Johnson.
“We had a slow start, sometimes it’s tougher to play teams that are not maybe going to jump out at you as much,” Johnson said. “But we had to just take a breath, regain focus and take control of the situation.”
The dynamic senior duo of Johnson, and Christine Seredni crashed the Owls party as they defeated Catalina Ene and Natasha Phillips, 8-5. Johnson, who came off another victory in both singles and doubles over the Columbia University in their previous match, kept her hot streak alive with her pin-point hitting ability and high energy composure.
FIU scored their second of three doubles wins with a Karyn Guttormsen and Gioletta Boha in an 8-2 debacle over Taylor Briggs and Justine Humair.
In the singles portion Johnson and Seredni lead by example the way seniors should, according to Applebaum-Dallau. Johnson clinched her match 6-2, 7-5 over Catalina Ene and Seredni defeated Erika Mrazkova, 6-1, 6-3.
Freshmen Karyn Guttorsmen and Sarah Mclean continue to overachieve as underclassmen.Both girls came out of Boca Raton with victories.
Guttormsen, holds a team-high eight consecutive victories in singles play.
Sarah Mclean blanked Natasha Basma in the first set, not allowing her opponent to score a single point, going 6-0. She followed by winning the next set 6-2 to seal the match for FIU.
“I think I played very well. I made sure to come out and stay aggressive and not let her take control of the match,” Mclean said. “I’ve been doing good throughout the season but since I came out playing really aggressive I do think it was one of my best performances of the year.”
Applebaum-Dallau is exceptionally proud of her freshman as she has a habit for not only clinching her matches, but doing so in such a timely fashion.
“I think Sarah [Mclean] definitely stood out today, she did a great job,” Applebaum-Dallau said. “As only a freshman she definitely took care of business out there on the court and finished pretty quick in little over an hour.”
The Panthers ended a two-game losing skid and seem to have knack for defeating the Owls. Their victory added to the Panthers 25-1 all time record versus the instate rival.
In the 2011 season, the Panthers dismantled the Owls in a lopsided 6-1 victory at home.
The loss for the Owls brought their overall record for the 2012 season to 9-5 and an even 1-1 in the Sun Belt. It also concludes Sun Belt regular season play for both teams until the coveted Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which starts April 19 in Denton, Texas.
It won’t be the first time FIU has traveled to the lone star state. On Feb. 25, FIU recorded their first conference win of the year against South Alabama, but faulted the following day to host team, North Texas 3-4.
FIU has only two games remaining on the schedule, but according to Applebaum-Dallau, she still remains confident that the team can pull out the next to wins heading in to the Sun Belt Tournament.
“On any given day I think that this team is able to beat any team that they can play.” Applebaum-Dallau said. “They do have the opportunity to bring another Sun Belt Championship, but that’s not how I coach my players, I coach them to take one day at a time or one game at a time and stay in the moment and not to worry about the results.”
FIU returns home to play host to Brown University, March 30. The match gets underway at 1 p.m.