MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Barry University women's tennis team locked up the No. 1 seed at the Sunshine State Conference Championships next week, following Wednesday's 8-1 win over Lynn.
The No. 2-ranked Buccaneers (21-0, 8-0 SSC) completed a perfect regular season in the conference with Wednesday's victory over the No. 8 Fighting Knights. The Bucs host NAIA No. 17 St. Thomas at 10 a.m. Saturday in the regular season finale.
Barry plays in the SSC Championships next Thursday-Saturday at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton, Fla., entering the league tournament as the top seed.
"It's always a tough match when we play Lynn," Barry head coach Avi Kigel said. "They're always one of the best teams in the country."
It started with nifty doubles play as Barry was at its best. The Buccaneers No. 1 doubles team of Elisabeth Abanda and Emma Onila, ranked No. 11 in NCAA Division II, knocked off third-ranked Valentine Confonfalonieri and Ioana Ivan, 8-5, in the final pairs match to be completed. That gave Barry a 3-0 lead.
"Lynn's No. 1 doubles is ranked No. 3 in the country for a reason," Kigel said. "We knew they were a very strong team. But we also knew that our No. 1 doubles team is very strong, and if we play the way we are capable of playing that we would have a good chance to win. It was close, but we were able to get the 'W' at the end."
Barry's No. 2 tandem of Linda Fritschken and Kimmy Twelker rolled to an 8-2 win over Ana Kriz and Aleks Vukadinovic for the Buccaneers' first point. Isabela Miro and Karina Goia upped the Bucs' lead to 2-0 with an 8-3 victory over Kim Przeszlowski and Alina Jane at the third flight.
"We got off to a really good start, being up 3-0 after doubles," Kigel said, "and we just kept our momentum going in singles."
Twelker picked up a win over Kriz, who retired with the Buccaneers' freshman leading 3-0 in the first set. That extended Barry's lead to 4-0. Ranked 33rd in the country, Fritschken sealed the team victory with a 6-1, 6-1 over Przeszlowski at No. 3 singles.
Leading 1-0 in the second set, Fritschken craftily mixed backhand with cross-court shots to chase the aggressive and athletic Przeszlowski around the court to take the next two games. Przeszlowski remained aggressive and ran down ball after ball, eventually winning a game. But with Fritschken leading 4-1 in the second set, the Bucs sophomore sewed the match away by taking the final two games.
"She was playing very smart, moving her side to side," Barry assistant coach Ana Maria Zuleta said. "She was wearing her out. As the match wore on, Linda increased the pace to finish the point faster. By increasing the pace, she got easier shots to go for winners to close up the match. Linda has the game to speed up and place shots.
"Her opponent was really good. She was defensive. Linda got a little bit more tired with those long rallies. But she played really smart, strong and aggressive."
Akemi Maehama posted a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Vukadinovic at No. 6. Goia gave the Bucs their fourth singles win when she beat Jane, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 4.
Following Onila's 6-1, 6-1 loss to the 13th-ranked Ivan at No. 2, Abanda put a bow on the Bucs victory with a signature win at the top flight. Ranked 28th in the country, Abanda beat the fourth-ranked Confalonieri, 6-4, 6-3, at No. 1.
"She just played a very solid match," Kigel said of Abanda, who has beaten the top two-ranked singles players in the South Region in this, her first, NCAA season. "She was aggressive with all of her shots. She kept pressuring Valentine the whole time, without any letdowns.
"We always knew that Bess could play at that level, and even better. She's had a little bit of ups and downs in the last four or five matches, but today she had a very solid performance. We knew that she is capable of playing at this level, which she needed to beat a really good player like Valentine. Elisabeth just needs to stay aggressive because that's her game."