UNLV Wins NCAA First Round Match

May 10, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. (UNLVRebels.com) - Okay, the UNLV women's tennis team is officially on a roll.

After winning the Mountain West Tournament championship late last month to make it nine wins in their last 10 court outings, the 57th-ranked Lady Rebels (20-7) upset No. 27 Tulsa (19-7) on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Playing at the University of Nebraska's Varsity Courts, UNLV picked up its 20th win of the season in dramatic fashion as the teams battled for nearly four-and-a-half hours to determine a victor.

It didn't look good early for the Lady Rebels as they let a lead slip away in doubles. The Golden Hurricane easily won the match at the top of the lineup as 15th-ranked Samantha Vickers and Isaura Enrique downed Lucia Batta and Nives Pavlovic 8-1. UNLV then drew even as Aleksandra Josifoska and Janine Erasmus outlasted Michelle Farley and Saana Saarteinen, 9-7, at the second position. On court three, Ella Bourchier and Iren Kotseva led 5-2 at one point and were ahead for most of the match before eventually falling to Renata Kuricova and Maria Sant'Anna in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (7-5), which gave Tulsa a 1-0 lead.

The disappointing development meant UNLV would have to win four of six singles matches to advance. Pavlovic, one of two seniors, made a statement and got her team on the board with a quick 6-1, 6-2 win over Farley at No. 3.

"I felt like we should have won the doubles but you have to hand it to Tulsa because they kept fighting and found a way to get the point," said UNLV head coach Kevin Cory. "We were a little down after that but I told the girls that we've been in this position before and we just need to find four points. Nives then went out played one of the best matches of her career, which got us even and helped set the tone."

Tulsa, however, picked up points in the next two completed matches on courts four and five to build a 3-1 lead. But Kotseva, the squad's only freshman, would coolly finish off Carol Benito on court six, 6-3, 6-2, to improve to 22-11 in her first season. That meant the match would come down to the top third of the lineup -- a place where UNLV has excelled all season long.

Batta, ranked 59th in the nation and winner of 25 straight, had a rare misstep in the first set but then took control against Enrique on court two. The junior's 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win improved her to 36-5 overall and kept her undefeated in dual matches this spring. More importantly it tied the overall match at 3 points apiece.

Fittingly, all eyes moved to court one to watch a battle of two conference players of the year. Josifoska, ranked 38th and reigning MVP of the Mountain West, was going toe-to-toe with Vickers, ranked 18th and MVP of Conference USA. The UNLV junior had pulled out the first set with a tiebreak win but then saw the Tulsa star come back to take the second stanza. Vickers won the first game of the third and deciding set but Josifoska eventually went ahead 5-2 and ultimately closed out the clincher 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-4 to snap her opponent's 17-match winning streak and hand her just her second loss in a dual match in 2013. It marked Josifoska's 13th straight win while her 34-7 overall mark put her into a tie for fourth in school history for single-season victories (Batta stands third on that list with her 36)

"Once we got it to 3-2 and it was up to our top two players, I felt very good about our chances," Cory said. "Lucia came back to do what she seemingly always does and then, just like at the Mountain West Championships, our conference player of the year clinched it for us. That Aleks did it against an opponent that has been nearly unbeatable all season made it an even greater ending."

UNLV, who was facing the Golden Hurricane for the first time since 2000, evened the all-time series between the programs at 2-2.

"I think UNLV absolutely deserved this match," said Tulsa head coach Dean Orford. "They competed so hard in singles and doubles. It was a really fun match that came down to a position we feel real comfortable with. All credit goes to their No. 1. The top of their lineup really came to play today."

UNLV, which was making its sixth NCAA trip in the last seven years, moves into the second round for only the third time in history and will take on host Nebraska, ranked 16th, which advanced with a 5-0 victory over Wichita State on Friday. The Rebels and Huskers will start with doubles at noon PT and the winner earns a trip to the round of 16, which this year will be played at the University of Illinois' Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.

"All credit to Tulsa," Cory said. "They battled hard and have a heckuva a team. Dean does a great job there. This was another huge day for our program. We beat a team that was ranked in the top 25 for most of the year and hopefully that gives us some momentum going against a powerful opponent like Nebraska tomorrow."

Two other Mountain West teams competed in NCAA Tournament action on Friday. The San Diego State's women's tennis team lost to Baylor 4-1 in the opening round, while the Boise State men fell 4-3 to Clemson.