Women's Tennis Sinks Pirates' Ship

Women's Tennis Sinks Pirates' Ship
All seven of the Bucs circled together, each responsible for one point in No. 4 Barry's 5-4 win over No. 1 Armstrong Friday. Photo by Joel Auerbach

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Barry University women’s tennis team knocked off No. 1 Armstrong Atlantic, 5-4, Friday, ending the NCAA defending champion’s 43-match win streak.

Ranked No. 4 entering the match, Barry (18-0) will likely become the No. 1 team in the country. A new poll is scheduled to be released next week, however Friday’s match may not be included in that poll. Another poll will be released in April. NCAA Division II tennis releases new rankings once a month.

“It’s a great feeling,” Buccaneers coach Avi Kigel said. “We always know that playing Armstrong … they’re always good. We have to come prepared.”

That the Bucs did, winning two of the three doubles matches en route to handing the Pirates (14-1) their first loss since Barry beat them in the 2011 NCAA semifinals. Barry’s Karina Goia and Isabelo Miro secured the first point with an 8-1 victory over Clara Perez and Natasa Vukovic at No. 3 doubles. Goia’s ace capped the match.

Armstrong’s No. 6-ranked Marlen Hacke and Olga Kalodzitsa beat Linda Fritschken and Kimmy Twelker, 8-2, at No. 2 doubles. It was the Buccaneer pair’s first loss this season.

Barry’s Elisabeth Abanda and Emma Onila gutted out an 8-6 win over No. 1-ranked Barbora Krtickova and Aleksandra Filipovski at the No. 1 flight. It improved the Bucs’ top duo’s record to 4-0 against nationally-ranked opponents and 14-2 overall this year.

Following a pair of Pirates singles wins at the Nos. 4 and 2 flights, 19th-ranked Fritschken defeated 14th-ranked Hacke, 7-6 (4), 6-4, at No. 3 singles to even the match at 3-3. Akemi Maehama defeated Jessica Gardefjord, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 6 singles to put the Buccaneers ahead, 4-3. Tied 3-3 in the second set, Maehama’s sticktoitiveness following a long rally paid dividends as she chased down a ball into the corner and sent a forehand past Gardefjord to win the game to take a 4-3 lead. She won two of the last three to improve to 15-1 this season.

“Literally, one word … ‘Happy,’” Maehama said. “I knew I needed to win to keep up with the team, and keep up the girls’ motivation.”

Twelker, who had not played a singles match in 16 days since the Bucs’ trip to Abilene, Texas, delivered in a big way. She beat 13th-ranked Kalodzitsa, 6-4, 7-6 (4), at No. 5 singles to clinch the win for the Bucs.

“I knew that my match was an important one,” Twelker said, “so I was fighting for my team, for myself, and I finally won it.”

Barry’s Emma Onila overcame a 6-2 first-set loss to the eighth-ranked Filipovski with a 7-6 (4) win in the second set to send the match to a third set. Filipovski battled back to win the final set, 7-5, to take the No. 1 singles point, after the team verdict had already been decided.

“I’m very happy with the way we came out with good energy,” Kigel said. “We kind of took it to them in doubles. We were able to pull it through. The doubles point is always very crucial. We’ve been playing good doubles the whole year. Armstrong has three very good doubles, as we do, so we were able to get two very important points.”

Maehama’s win loomed large as the match ran its course.

“Akemi’s very important for this team,” Kigel said. “She knew this year it was her chance to make a significant impact. Fighting is her signature way of playing, and she came up big today.”

Twelker, who’s battled multiple injuries this season, was coming off a loss in her last singles match in Texas. To seal it for the Bucs, despite battling the adversity she’s faced this season, was monumental.

“Kimmy’s huge for us in both singles and doubles,” Kigel said. “We had to be careful with how much she could play (earlier this year). We’re going to need her. She’s going to be expected to play singles and doubles the rest of the year.”

Every Buccaneer contributed to one of the five points necessary for clinching the victory.

“That’s a must when you play a team like Armstrong,” Kigel said. “That’s the only way we can compete against the top teams.”