BRISTOL, Tenn. – The Stetson women’s tennis team (11-9) won the final two singles matches to come back from a 3-2 deficit and defeat Florida Gulf Coast (11-8) by a score of 4-3 in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship on Friday at the Bristol Country Club.
Trailing by one point with just two matches remaining, Stetson’s fate lied on the play of a freshman and a senior. Freshman Eveline Lepinay, who lost to her FGCU opponent – Bettina Botha – just six days ago in DeLand, won her first set 6-4 before cruising to a 6-2 second set win to tie the match up at 3-3 for the Hatters.
Having already won set one 7-5, senior Jen Miller took it upon herself to lead Stetson to the first round victory. As she did in the Hatters’ regular season finale back on April 13, Miller went on to win in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, to secure the victory for Stetson, advancing the Hatters to the A-Sun Semifinals, where they will take on top seeded ETSU (13-5).
"What a great college match the ladies played today," Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote said following the win. "Playing indoor for Florida teams is never easy, but both teams played excellent matches. Jen [Miller] was outstanding in the clinching match for us."
Forced to play indoors at the Bristol Country Club due to inclement weather in East Tennessee, Stetson’s day didn’t begin as planned. That continued when the Eagles won two out of three doubles matches to earn the first point of the contest. Miller and junior Diana Bukajeva were the only victorious Hatter pairing, winning 8-2 at the number one position.
Stetson got back into the match, and took the advantage, when senior Sara Lazarevic and Bukajeva were the first to finish their singles play. Lazarevic, a second team all-conference member, won 6-3, 6-0 at the number two position to tie the match at 1-1. Bukajeva, also a second-teamer, then won 6-2, 6-0 at number three singles to give the Hatters the lead at 2-1.
The Eagles then regained the advantage with a pair of victories to take their 3-2 lead. Freshman Andrea Crespo, a first team all-conference honoree, was defeated by FGCU’s Sarah Means 6-4, 6-4 at the number one position, and junior Lindsey Cable dropped her match at number four, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 to give the Eagles their slight lead.
The victories by Lepinay and Miller ended the match in favor of the Hatters, and put Stetson into the A-Sun Semifinals for the ninth straight year. The Hatters will take on top seed, and last season’s runner-up, ETSU on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. at the ETSU Tennis Complex.
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