Brian Olmo | Sports Director
All eyes are on one team to bring a championship home for the Blue and Gold this season.
After sweeping UTSA and LA Tech, FIU women’s tennis faces the Rice Owls for a chance to win its second Conference USA title in history on Sunday, April 23 at Waranch Tennis Complex in Denton, Texas.
The No. 38 Panthers entered the tournament as the top seed, boasting a strong 17-4 overall record and a 3-1 conference record.
FIU’s tournament run started with a matchup against the Roadrunners in the quarterfinals.
It was light work for the Panthers in doubles, as sophomore Yasmine Kabbaj and freshman Oyinlomo Quadre started the day off with a swift 6-0 victory over UTSA’s Fatima Gutierrez and Alexandra Weir.
Junior Salma Loudili and freshman Katerina Mandelikova clinched the point for good with a 6-3 win to give FIU a 1-0 lead.
Singles play didn’t treat UTSA any better as the Panthers collected the first three singles victories.
Freshman Ekaterina Khairutdinova broke her two-game skid against Weir, 6-1, 6-1, and then Quadre, FIU’s two-time C-USA Player of the Week, followed up with a rout of Gutierrez, 6-1, 6-1.
The chance to clinch the match and move on was on Kabbaj’s shoulders.
Kabbaj dropped her first set before countering in two straight sets to win her fifth match in a row at the No. 1 position to seal the Roadrunners’ fates as the Panthers advance.
In a similar fashion to the last game, the Panthers then steamrolled the Lady Techsters in the semifinals, 4-0.
The start of this match saw Kabbaj and Quadre lose a hard-fought game in No. 2 doubles to Olga Bienzobas and Alexia Romero, 7-6 (7-3).
Loudili and Mandelikova successfully paid it back with a strong 6-3 win before all eyes turned to the No. 1 court.
Graduate Kamila Umarova and Khairutdinova battled in their match, rallying back to force a tiebreaker against LA Tech’s Najah Dawson and Ana Rodrigues. In the end, the 79th-ranked FIU duo got the job done to clinch the doubles point, 7-6 (7-4).
With a championship appearance in sight, a fire lit in the eyes of the Panthers during singles.
Possessed by the will to win, FIU tallied first-set wins on all six courts.
Mandelikova thrashed Rodrigues 6-4, 6-1 to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead that would turn 3-0 after Loudili earned her 11th win at the No. 6 spot against Valentina Vazquez, 6-3, 6-3.
Quadre delivered the coup de grâce, clinching the match off a 6-3, 6-2 win over Dawson to punch the Panthers’ ticket to the championship finals and earn themselves a date with the No. 3 seed Rice Owls.
An autobid for the NCAA tournament is on the line. Only one team will earn it.
First serve for the finals is set for 11 a.m. Catch the match being streamed on tennis.Track.
1. Yasmine Kabbaj (FIU) def. Aleksandra Zlatarova (UTSA) 2-6, 6-1, 6-2
2. E. Khairutdinova (FIU) def. Alexandra Weir (UTSA) 6-1, 6-1
3. Oyinlomo Quadrea (FIU) def. Fatima Gutierrez (UTSA) 6-1, 6-1
4. Kamila Umarova (FIU) vs. Magda Tuells (UTSA) 2-6, 4-5, unfinished
5. Katerina Mandelikova (FIU) vs. Eva Beyebach (UTSA) 6-0, 6-6, unfinished
6. Salma Loudili (FIU) vs. Adeliya Mukhutdinova (UTSA) 3-6, 6-4, unfinished
Order of finish: 2,3,1
1. #79 E. Khairutdinova/Kamila Umarova (FIU) vs. Magda Tuells/Aleksandra Zlatarova (UTSA), 4-3, unfinished
2. #75 Yasmine Kabbaj/Oyinlomo Quadre (FIU) def. Fatima Gutierrez/Alexandra Weir (UTSA) 6-0
3. Salma Loudili/Katerina Mandelikova (FIU) def. S.Bobrovnikova/Adeliya Mukhutdinova (UTSA) 6-3
Order of finish: 2,3
FIU-LA TECH Results:
1. Yasmine Kabbaj (FIU) vs. Leonie Schuknecht (TECH) 6-1, 4-5, unfinished
2. E. Khairutdinova (FIU) vs. Olga Bienzobas (TECH) 6-1, 5-6, unfinished
3. Oyinlomo Quadrea (FIU) def. Najah Dawson (TECH) 6-3, 6-2
4. Kamila Umarova (FIU) vs. Tiffani Nash (TECH) 6-2, 4-2, unfinished
5. Katerina Mandelikova (FIU) def. Ana Rodrigues (TECH) 6-4, 6-1
6. Salma Loudili (FIU) def. Valentina Vazquez (TECH) 6-3, 6-3
Order of finish: 5,6,3
1. #79 E. Khairutdinova/Kamila Umarova (FIU) def. Najah Dawson/Ana Rodrigues (TECH) 7-6 (7-4)
2. Olga Bienzobas/Alexia Romero (TECH) def. #75 Yasmine Kabbaj/Oyinlomo Quadre (FIU) 7-6 (7-3)
3. Salma Loudili/Katerina Mandelikova (FIU) def. Leonie Schuknecht/Ilana Tetruashvili (TECH) 6-3
Order of finish: 2,1,3
Follow Brian Olmo on Twitter at @Brian_Olmo11
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