KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Playing its first home postseason match since 2011, the 15th-seeded Tennessee women’s tennis team defeated Southeast Missouri, 4-0, in the First Round of the 2023 Women’s NCAA Team Championship on Friday afternoon at Barksdale Stadium.
Tennessee reached the 20-win mark for the 12th time in program history. It marks the Lady Vols’ second time doing so under head coach Alison Ojeda, who also led the squad to a 20-win season 2019.
The Lady Vols kicked off the match with a doubles point victory, taking the one-set bout on Courts 1 and 3, 6-4 and 6-3, respectively. The first to win was the pairing of Eleonora Molinaro and Daria Kuczer on 3. The two are on an impressive run of late, claiming their last six matches that finished.
Rebeka Mertena and Esther Adeshina were the winners on Court 1 and the two have posted an impressive postseason pedigree the last two seasons, winning their match in the 2022 NCAA Tournament Second Round at NC State, 6-3, over the then-top-ranked doubles pairing in the country.
As the match moved into singles play, SEMO (17-3) dug in and started battling. Both Courts 5 and 6 were off to big first-set advantages, but the Redhawks were challenging the Lady Vols in the center courts.
Leyla Britez Risso was outstanding in the match, double-bageling Teona Velkoska on Court 6, 6-0, 6-0. For Britez Risso, it marked her first match played since February and was an impressive NCAA Tournament debut.
“Today, honestly it was more about just staying with it,” head coach Alison Ojeda said in her post-match press conference. “We don’t need to play better than how we’re playing. We just have to keep sticking with it and make sure that they’re (SEMO) the ones that feel like they have to elevate their level. Let’s just stay solid. That was the message everywhere.”
Adeshina fed off of the success from a court over on 4. Adeshina, who normally plays at No. 5, cut up Vivian Lai, 6-4, 6-3, and fended off some counterattacks from the Redhawks’ senior, taking four of the final five games to close out the match.
As the Ohio Valley Conference-champions were starting to battle back, taking some sets and earning momentum, Anzalotta put her foot on the pedal and took over the third set against Trinity Calinescu, clinching the point and the match with a 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 win. Anzalotta clinched victory for the Lady Vols for the fourth time this year.
UP NEXT: Tennessee will face the same team that it opened the season…
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