The competition may have been singles, but the excitement came in double form for the Tennessee women’s tennis team in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon.
Tennessee trailed 3-2 and had only two singles matches remaining, but both Joanna Henderson and Brynn Boren managed to hang on to their very tight leads to help Tennessee (4-5, 2-1 SEC) get the win.
“Fortunately for us we figured out a way to win that fourth point against a quality opponent,” said a happy co-head coach Mike Patrick. “I couldn’t be more pleased for the girls. It’s awesome.”
The final drama was set up by a match that went back and forth throughout the mild afternoon during the outdoor home opener at Barksdale Tennis Stadium.
It initially looked as though it might be an easy win for Tennessee, as the Lady Vols swept doubles, with Boren and Kata Szekely winning 8-0 at No. 1.
But Caitlyn Williams soon lost to Julia Jones (0-6, 3-6) at No. 3 singles to give Ole Miss (2-8, 0-4 SEC) a 1-1 tie.
Senior Szekely then beat Mai El Kamash (6-4, 6-3) at No. 2 before the Rebels notched the score at 2-2 when Vief Vlaar came back from a 6-2 first-set loss against No. 6 Lady Vol Tiffany Tavares to win.
Ole Miss then briefly went ahead 3-2 in the team score after Marija Milutinovic beat Tennessee’s No. 5 player, Mimi Fotopoulos (7-5, 6-1).
Although concern likely came for the Vol fans, the time had not come to panic, as both Boren and Henderson had the slimmest of leads at Nos. 1 and 4. Henderson rallied back from a goose egg in the second set to win (6-4, 0-6, 6-4) over Erin Stephens, and the small contingent of Lady Vol supporters and team members let out a cheer.
From there, the focus immediately shifted to Boren’s match, as the junior was a point or two away from clinching. She hung on for a 7-6, 6-4 win over Caroline Rohde-Moe, and finally the Vol faithful could fully celebrate.
About the only orange-clad person in the entire stadium who did not know the scenario before the clinching point was Boren.
“Actually I didn’t even know Jo had won her match yet, so I was just thinking keep it going as long as possible and close it out if I could,” she said.
And she did.
“We’re a good team and we’ve just got to continue to learn how to execute under pressure,” said Patrick.