The Stetson women’s tennis team defeated Florida International for the first time in seven all-time meetings, winning by a score of 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center.
The Hatters, who hadn’t played since opening the season splitting a pair of matches against #24 Florida State and Florida A&M back on Jan. 19, came out ready to go on Sunday. Stetson won the first two doubles matchups to take an early 1-0 lead.
“What a great team effort from our players today,” Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote said. “I told our team that we needed to start strong in doubles, and we did. The doubles point became the difference in the match.”
Senior Diana Bukajeva and freshman Isabella Fernandez cruised to a 6-1 victory over Nina Nagode and Tina Mohoric at number one doubles. Senior Lindsey Cable and sophomore Eveline Lepinay than gave the Hatters the point with a 6-3 win over Carlotta Orlando and Giulietta Boha at number three doubles.
After sophomore Andrea Crespo lost at number two singles to tie the match 1-1, sophomore Cari Berry and senior MayaBlue Stauffer-MacDowell won at number six and four, respectively, to give Stetson a 3-1 advantage. Berry won 6-0, 7-5 against Valentina Briceno, while Stauffer-MacDowell earned a 6-1, 4-6, 1-0 (10-4) victory against Mohoric.
Fernandez and freshman Carolina Meregalli lost in straight sets at number three and five, respectively, allowing FIU to tie the match up again at 3-3. It then came down to Bukajeva against Orlando at number one singles.
Bukajeva won her first set 6-4, but then fell behind 5-0 to start set two. With every other matched finished, and all of her teammates lining the court cheering her on, Bukajeva rallied. The senior won seven straight games to win the second set 7-5 and give Stetson the triumph. It marked Bukajeva’s eighth straight singles win, dating back to last season.
“It is extremely rare to have a player come back from 0-5 down to win 7-5, but to see it at #1 is unheard of,” Pilote said. “Diana never doubted that she could come back. She is such a fighter.”
Stetson improved to 2-1 with the win, while FIU fell to 1-1 on the season. The Hatters will next play at Embry-Riddle on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 12:00 p.m.
“FIU is such a strong program, year in and year out,” Pilote concluded. “They fought hard to the last point as you would expect from such a program.”