No. 3 Nighthawks Advance To Elite Eight With 4-0 Win Over No. 33 Charleston

No. 3 Nighthawks Advance To Elite Eight With 4-0 Win Over No. 33 Charleston
No. 3 Nighthawks Advance To Elite Eight With 4-0 Win Over No. 33 Charleston

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – The No. 3 University of North Georgia women’s tennis team advanced to the 2024 NCAA Division II Women’s Tennis Elite Eight with a 4-0 win over No. 33 Charleston Monday afternoon. The Nighthawks are back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2019 and just the second time in program history.

“Last time we came here, we were happy to be in the Elite Eight. This year, I don’t think it’s enough, so they’re going to stay hungry,” said head coach Kent Norsworthy after the win.

Norsworthy also noted that while his team took down the Golden Eagles 4-0, by no means was it an easy win.

“It’s not fair to call that a 4-0 match. They definitely pushed us to the limits,” Norsworthy said. “It’s not fair to call it 4-0, but it was a great battle for sure.”

Despite being one of a number of matches that began at 1 pm from Sanlando Park, UNG and Charleston were the last two teams to finish their match as the Golden Eagles pushed four of the six singles matches to a third set.

In doubles play, it was wins in the #2 and #3 doubles spots that helped UNG secure an early 1-0 lead.

Senior Valentina Ascarrunz and junior Carolina Reis earned a 6-4 win in the #3 spot, moments before junior Angelina Linnikova and senior Svetlana Teterina combined for a 6-3 win the #2 match to clinch the point for the Nighthawks.

As singles play got started, it was clear that UNG was not going to cruise to its program-best 24th victory of the season. Although UNG won the first set in five of the six singles contests, no Nighthawk was victorious in the opening set by more than a three-game margin other than Ascarrunz who won 6-2.

The senior from Santa Cruz, Bolivia moved to 21-2 in singles competitions this season with a 6-1 win in the second set, giving the Nighthawks a 2-0 lead overall. Ascarrunz has now tied her teammate, Linnikova, for the most singles wins of any player this season. Her 21 victories are also tied for the second-most singles wins in a season in UNG women’s tennis history.

After Ascarrunz, it was Teterina’s turn to pick up a critical win. The senior took down his opponent 6-4, 6-2, pulling the Nighthawks within clinching distance at 3-0 in the match.

As was the theme for the overall match, Teterina’s score is not indicative of the grueling match she found herself in. “It looks routine on paper, but watching the match, it was very hard for her to get separation in the sets,” said Norsworthy. “[There were] a lot of deuce points, lots of athletic points, so it was definitely a challenge for her, but she does what she’s been doing all season and was able to get enough separation to get us that line.”

After Teterina’s win, tensions were heightened in the four remaining singles matches, especially in the #1 and #2 matches as both Linnikova and senior Viktorie Wojcikova led in their respective second sets.

As all four remaining matches were pushed to a decisive third set, Norsworthy knew his leaders would find a way to win, particularly senior Johanna Lippert.

“She’s one of those players where when she goes into a third set, I almost relax more,” said Norsworthy. “She just plays so well under pressure, that it almost eases my mind in those moments. Ella She just gets tougher.”

Toughness was paramount as Lippert fell behind in the late stages of the third set. Trailing 5-4, Lippert buckled down and did just what Norsworthy said she always does. Focus.

She came back and tied the set at 5-5. Looking to edge his opponent and take a sixth game, Lippert stumbled and fell behind 15-40. She stormed back and stole the 11th game to make it 6-5 in the third set.

With the finish line in sight, Lippert pressed the pedal even harder. She raced by her counterpart and took the final set without losing a single point.

With Lippert’s 16th singles win of the season and her first match-clinching win of the year, she lifted the Nighthawks to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2019.

In the other match in UNG’s bracket, 11th-seeded Academy of Art upset sixth-seeded University of Indianapolis 4-1. The Nighthawks will face the Knights tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21 at 4 pm

 
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