Feb. 21, 2016
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The No. 17 Alabama women’s tennis team (3-3) claimed a tense doubles point before rallying past the No. 26 Northwestern Wildcats (1-5) in singles play for a 5-2 victory on Sunday at the Roberta Alison Baumgardner Tennis Facility. Three singles matches went the distance, with the Crimson Tide taking all three.
“We showed a tremendous amount of tenacity, character, resiliency, toughness and grit,” said head coach Jenny Mainz. “It’s going to require that every time out. We are well-equipped to deal with it. We just have to stay the course and be prepared to give that amount of effort and energy every time out. I felt like we saw a lot of great things today, and it was a total team effort. But I think a big thing is playing at home in front of our fans. They always pull us through in tough matches. They do a great job with their enthusiasm and their energy.”
After moving indoors during the warmup due to rain, the day started off with a competitive doubles point, as all three courts were tied at 2-2 early. Northwestern was the first to record a win thanks to the 35th-ranked duo of Alicia Barnett and Erin Larner, who defeated sophomore Aryn Greene and junior Danielle Spielmann 6-4 on court two. Barnett and Larner secured the decisive break for a 4-3 lead and held on. Needing the matchups on courts one and three for the doubles point, Alabama was able to find a way to take both. At the third position, senior Natalia Maynetto and junior Joanna Nena Savva traded breaks early with Lee Or and Manon Peri. The pairs held serve the rest of the way to send the match into a tiebreak, where Maynetto and Savva dominated the Wildcats seven points to one.
That turned all eyes to court one, where the 52nd-ranked tandem of freshman Andie Daniell and junior Erin Routliffe were up against ninth-ranked Alex Chatt and Maddie Lipp. After falling behind 4-2, Daniell and Routliffe won three consecutive games before eventually finding themselves in a tiebreak. Both teams showed signs of nerves in the opening points, but a double fault by Northwestern at five points all was the decisive mistake. At 6-5, Routliffe hung in a long baseline rally, forcing an error from the Wildcats to clinch the doubles point for the Tide.
Each team won three first sets in singles play, but it was Northwestern who surged in front 2-1 after a couple of straight-set victories. At the third spot, Larner took down 122nd-ranked Savva 6-0, 6-2 before Chatt got past Maynetto on court four 6-2, 6-4. Daniell, ranked 47th, evened the score back up at 2-2 thanks to her 7-5, 6-3 triumph over 51st-ranked Lipp at the top spot. The rookie is now 16-3 on the year and 6-2 against nationally-ranked foes.
The three remaining courts would all go the distance, and Alabama would manage to win all three. At the second position, Routliffe raced out to a 3-0 advantage over Barnett in the first, but found herself back on serve at 3-2 before reeling off the last three games of the set. Barnett responded in the second, breaking serve three times to take the set 6-3. Routliffe broke for 2-1 and extended her lead to 3-1 in the final frame after firing an ace, but Barnett put together one final rally to pull even at 3-3. However, Barnett would miss an easy volley down a break point in the next game, and Routliffe ran away with the match from there.
The clinching point came from court five, where Spielmann lost a first set that featured numerous deuce points 6-2. She fell behind a break at 1-3, and again at 3-5, in the second, and faced a match point at deuce in the 4-5 game. Spielmann was able to fight off the match point, turning momentum squarely in her favor. She took the second set 7-5 before breezing through the third 6-1 to give the Tide the team win. Greene also played an up-and-down match on court six, surviving a first set that featured seven breaks. She lost the second set 6-4 after trailing 4-0, but won the first four games of the final set before closing it out 6-2.
“She [Danielle Spielmann] is coming along,” stated Mainz. “She just didn’t go away. She picked up her game and improved during the match. She stayed close to the baseline. Instead of throwing a lot at her, I said ‘Dani, keep stepping in, keep accelerating, and stay up in the court.’ Really, that’s what got her back in the match. She stopped trying to overthink and overplay and just stepped in. She trusted herself.”
Next up, the Tide will travel to Montgomery, Ala., for the 2016 Blue Gray National Tennis Classic at Lagoon Park Feb. 26-27. Draws and match times will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
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