Cats Top LSU 4-3 in SEC Tournament Thriller

April 22, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women’s tennis team came out of the gates on fire Thursday evening at Barksdale Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., and held on in a hard fought, thrilling match against No. 59 LSU to win 4-3 in the first round of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Women’s Tennis Tournament.

UK head coach Carlos Drada switched the doubles lineup around, pairing senior Megan Broderick with freshman Cece Witten at No. 2 doubles and sophomore Jessica Stiles with freshman Khristina Blajkevitch at No. 1 doubles. It was the first time all season either team had played together. The switch paid dividends.

Kentucky got off to a strong start by sweeping the doubles point with a win from freshmen Marni Venter and Caitlin McGraw at No. 3 doubles, followed by the doubles-clinching point from Broderick and Witten at No. 2. Both matches were won by an 8-5 count. Stiles and Blajkevitch led their match 6-4 at No. 1 doubles before play was suspended after the Cats had clinched the point.

LSU rebounded in singles play with straight-set victories at Nos. 3, 5 and 6, but Kentucky, which had lost to LSU earlier this month by a 5-2 score, rallied in the final three singles matches. Trailing 3-1 with the season on the line, the Wildcats rose to the occasion.

At No. 1 singles, Broderick lost her opening set 6-4 to No. 64 Whitney Wolf. The senior from Tampa, Fla., came back to take the second set 6-3 though, and kept the momentum going in the third set with another 6-3 win to advance 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and move the score to 3-2. Broderick’s win over Wolf is her second victory over a top 76 player in as many weeks. Broderick rallied to top No. 76 Alex Leatu of Vanderbilt 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 last week on Senior Day.

McGraw then evened the overall match at 3-3 with a win at No. 4 singles. The freshman from Orlando, Fla., fell in the first set 6-0 but kept her composure to rally in the second and third set to grab her second conference victory in the past three matches, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5.

In the evening’s final match, Stiles found herself in a back and forth match at No. 2 singles against LSU’s Olivia Howlett. Stiles, the Wildcats’ team leader in singles victories and winner of each of her past three singles matches, took the opening set 6-3 before falling in the second set 6-1. The match’s final set was tight throughout before Stiles finally broke through at the end to come out with a 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 victory.

The Wildcats’ win over LSU was its first win over a ranked opponent this season and its first win in the SEC Tournament since the 2008 season when they topped Ole Miss 4-0.

Kentucky (5-19, 2-9 SEC) will now face No. 14 Tennessee on Friday at 6 p.m. ET in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The Lady Vols are the conference tournament’s No. 2 seed and enter the match with a 17-6 record and 9-2 mark in conference play. Kentucky lost to Tennessee 6-1 in Knoxville on March 11. Blajkevitch won her match at No. 4 singles over Kata Szekely 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (12-10).

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Barksdale Stadium
Knoxville, Tenn.
April 21, 2011

Kentucky 4, No. 59 LSU 3

Doubles competition:
1) Stiles/Blajkevitch (UK) vs. No. 87 Wolf/Burns (LSU) 6-4 (DNF)
2) Broderick/Witten (UK) def. Vlaar/Frankenberger (LSU) 8-5
3) Venter/McGraw (UK) def. Howlett/Morton (LSU) 8-5

Singles competition:
1) Megan Broderick (UK) def. No. 64 Whitney Wolf (LSU) 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
2) Jessica Stiles (UK) def. Olivia Howlett (LSU) 6-3, 1-6, 7-5
3) Kaitlin Burns (LSU) def. Khristina Blajkevitch (UK) 6-1, 6-4
4) Caitlin McGraw (UK) def. Keri Frankenberger (LSU) 0-6, 6-4, 7-5
5) Yvette Vlaar (LSU) def. Cece Witten (UK) 6-0, 6-4
6) Ariel Morton (LSU) def. Misha Testerman (UK) 6-3, 6-4

Order of finish:
Doubles: 3, 2*
Singles: 5, 3, 6, 1, 4, 2*