Reinaldo Llerena/ Staff Writer
The No. 57-ranked FIU women’s tennis team broke a school record and faced tough competition over the past week at the FIU Tennis Courts.
The Panthers (13-2) extended their win streak to 10 games, a new school record. The team defeated Butler University and UTEP to break the record for most consecutive wins. The streak was snapped when Columbia University defeated the Panthers, 4-3, on March 15.
“I’m proud of my girls,” said coaching assistant Jacki Alawi after a Thursday, March 17, win over Yale University. “They have shown more character this season and are more willing to fight for wins.”
As of March 17, the Panthers are 2-2 when losing the doubles point in matches. The Panthers remain undefeated on the season when they win the doubles point.
“Doubles are never the end of the match,” said junior Nina Nagode after the Tuesday, March 15, loss against Columbia. “Sure, it makes the singles matches easier, but it’s not the end of the match. Anything can happen in singles matches.”
The Panthers made quick work of Butler Tuesday, March 8. The Panthers claimed the doubles point to start the match up 1-0. Then, the Panthers won every singles match in straight sets to shut out the struggling Bulldogs, 7-0. The win against Butler was the Panthers’ sixth shutout win of the season.
“We’re all on the same page,” said redshirt freshman Andrea Lazaro after the match. “We’ve improved on our doubles play this season and we’re all focused on our main goal, winning the conference tournament and making the NCAA tournament.”
To break the school record of most consecutive wins, the Panthers had to go through conference-rival UTEP Friday, March 11.
The Panthers blanked the UTEP Miners, 4-0, on their way to their 10th-straight win, a new school record. The win was the seventh shutout of the season for the Panthers.
“Breaking the school record doesn’t feel like anything,” said head coach Katarina Petrovic after the match against the Miners. “I’ve been waiting for this to happen since last year. This is the best team I’ve ever coached and we have the right people around this team to make it as successful as we’ve been this season.”
After shutting out the Miners, the Panthers faced their toughest opponent to date, the No. 41-ranked Columbia Lions.
The Panthers lost the doubles point when senior Carlotta Orlando and Lazaro lost to Kanika Vaidya and Adi Milstein, 7-5. The duo of freshman Maryna Veksler and Nagode defeated the No. 59-ranked doubles team of Rima Asatrian and Alexandra Solovyev, the only doubles win for the Panthers.
However, the Panthers came back strong in singles play.
Lazaro clinched the Panthers’ first point when she defeated Solovyev, 6-2, 6-1, and senior Kaitlin Brozovich got FIU’s second point. The senior defeated Vivian Cheng, 6-0, 6-3, and improved to 14-8 on the season. Nagode chipped in with her win against Asatrian in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3.
But Columbia came back strong after being down 3-1 versus the Panthers.
Vaidya (No. 52) defeated Veksler in straight sets and sophomore Nerma Caluk lost in three sets to Kevakian, which tied the match at three. Orlando fell to Makarome in her third and final set, giving the Panthers their first loss since their home opener on Jan. 29.
“It’s not frustrating that we lost,” said Nagode after the match. “Our main problem is that we stopped believing in ourselves, that’s the frustrating part. The little things killed us.”
Two days after the loss to Columbia, the Panthers rebounded versus Yale University. The match came down to the final match again, but Caluk would pull out a straight-set victory versus Courtney Amos to win the match for the Panthers.
The Panthers won four singles matches to top Yale, 4-3. The Bulldogs won the doubles point and carried a 1-0 lead heading into singles play.
Lazaro, who was moved into the No. 3 spot in the lineup, won her match in straight sets versus Ree Ree Li to tie the match at one. Orlando, who moved down to the No. 4 in the lineup, won her match in straight-sets versus Sherry Li.
Yale climbed back to take the lead, 3-2, when Brozovich and Veksler lost their matches in straight sets.
But Nagode and Caluk would win their respective matches to give FIU the comeback victory over the Lions. The win was FIU’s twelfth of the season.
On Friday, March 18, the Panthers had a default victory, 7-0, over UW Milwaukee. The win improved the Panthers’ record to 13-2.
The Panthers will next play Brown University at the FIU Tennis Courts for their final home game of the season. First serve is set for noon Sunday, March 27.