LAFAYETTE, La. – The seventh-seeded ULM tennis team gave second-seeded Georgia State all it wanted, but the Panthers eventually prevailed in a 4-3 thriller on Friday in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Sun Belt Championships at Bourgeois Hall.
Georgia State won the doubles point and pushed out to a 3-1 advantage, but wins by freshman Petra Horakova at the No. 6 singles position and freshman Justyna Krol at the No. 4 singles position tied the match at 3-all. The deciding match came at the No. 3 position, where Georgia State’s Whitney Byrd outlasted sophomore Silvia Tumova, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
“I have to give credit to our girls, they fought really hard today,” ULM head coach Terrence De Jongh said. “Georgia State is a team that has been nationally ranked all year and their little bit of extra experience helped them down the stretch. We had our chances in both singles and doubles play, but we just couldn’t get over that hump.”
The loss ends another stellar season for the Warhawks (15-4) under De Jongh, in his seventh season as head coach. ULM was ranked as high as No. 75 in the nation early in March and finished undefeated at home for the second time in three seasons.
The Warhawks dropped just their second doubles point of the season as the Panthers won at the No.1 and No. 3 position to take a 1-0 lead into singles play.
Junior Medy Blankvoort shook off a slow start to post a dominating 6-3, 6-0 victory over Grgan at the No. 2 singles position to tie the match. Blankvoort finished the season with a 16-2 record and is 32-3 over the past two seasons.
Georgia State’s Abigail Tere-Apisah knocked off sophomore Sophie Rufyikiri, 6-3, 6-2, at the No. 1 position and Maryna Kozachenko handed freshman Iris Van Leeuwen her first singles loss of the season, 6-0, 6-2, at the No. 5 position to re-gain the lead at 3-1.
Horakova kept the Warhawks alive with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Jocelyn Ffriend at the No. 6 positon and Krol battled back for a 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 triumph over Linn Timmermann at the No. 4 position to once again tie the match.
On court three, Tumova trailed 4-6, 0-3, but won six straight games to force a deciding third set. Byrd quickly took control in the third, winning the first three games and cruising to the 6-1 win.
“We had another phenomenal season, finishing undefeated at home for the second time in three seasons and going 7-0 against teams in our region,” De Jongh said. “I feel that with our top players coming back next season, we have a good chance to be one of the top teams in the Sun Belt.”
The Panthers (7-10) will face the winner of No. 3 Troy and No. 6 Middle Tennessee in the tournament semifinals on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Georgia State 4, ULM 3
1. Abigail Tere-Apisah (GSU) def. Sophie Rufyikiri (ULM), 6-3, 6-2
2. Medy Blankvoort (ULM) def. Masa Grgan (GSU), 6-3, 6-0
3. Whitney Byrd (GSU) def. Silvia Tumova (ULM), 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
4. Justyna Krol (ULM) def. Linn Timmermann (GSU), 1-6, 6-2, 6-4
5. Maryna Kozachenko (GSU) def. Iris Van Leeuwen (ULM), 6-0, 6-2
6. Petra Horakova (ULM) def. Jocelyn Ffriend (GSU), 6-3, 7-5
1. Abigail Tere-Apisah/Masa Grgan (GSU) def. Petra Horakova/Silvia Tumova (ULM), 8-4
2. Whitney Byrd/Maryna Kozachenko (GSU) vs. Medy Blankvoort/Justyna Krol (ULM) 6-5, unfinished
3. Linn Timmermann/Jocelyn Ffriend (GSU) def. Sophie Rufyikiri/Iris Van Leeuwen (ULM), 8-4