Kentucky Outlasts Wake Forest, Earns Fourth-Straight NCAA Sweet 16 Berth
LEXINGTON – Kentucky sophomore Joelle Schwenk fought through a painful foot injury and rallied from a one-set deficit to propel the Cats into the NCAA Sweet 16 for a fourth-consecutive season, as third-seeded UK defeated No. 28 Wake Forest by a 4-2 margin Saturday at the Boone Indoor Tennis Center. Kentucky punches its ticket to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships, which begin Thursday, May 19 at Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The Cats will take on 14th-seeded Tulane Thursday at 3 p.m. EDT. The Green Wave advanced to the NCAA round of 16 by way of a 4-3 win over TCU.
Kentucky opened the match with a spirited doubles session to capture the doubles point. UK’s Sarah Foster and Aibika Kalsarieva held a 4-1 lead at first doubles, but Wake Forest’s Karin Coetzee and Alex Hirsch eventually rallied to tie the set at five. UK immediately recovered and took the match by an 8-6 margin. At the second position, UK’s Kim Coventry and Joelle Schwenk also held a 4-1 lead only to see the lead evaporate. After Wake Forest’s Katie Martzolf and Ashlee Davis drew even at four all, Coventry and Schwenk took the final four games of the set to win 8-4 and clinch the Wildcat doubles point.
UK’s Coventry extended the Kentucky lead to 2-0 with an impressive win at second singles. The Melbourne, Australia-native defeated Wake’s 63rd-ranked Davis by a 6-3, 6-0 count to chalk up her 20th dual-match win of the season. Wake Forest sliced the deficit in half at the first position, as the Demon Deacons’ 33rd-ranked Coetzee ended Kalsarieva’s 21-match unbeaten streak, winning by a 6-4, 6-2 margin. The loss was Kalsarieva’s first since Feb. 3, when she fell to Clemson’s second-ranked Julie Coin. Wake Forest pulled even at two shortly thereafter, as Hirsch defeated UK’s Sarah Foster, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 3 singles.
Kentucky’s Maurer answered Wake Forest’s momentum with a commanding 6-2, 6-0 win over Jenna Loeb at No. 5 singles to give the Cats a lead they would not relinquish. After dropping a first-set tiebreaker to Wake’s Katie Martzolf, UK’s Schwenk held a 2-0 lead before Martzolf rebounded to take a 3-2 second-set lead. However, Schwenk would take four of the next five games to force the deciding third set. Schwenk retained control in the final set, winning by a 6-1 margin to clinch the Kentucky victory.
Schwenk forced herself to conquer a recurring foot injury in the second set.
“At 2-1 in the second set, I took a bad step on my foot,” Schwenk said. “It hurt so badly, my eyes were welling up with tears. Mark (Guilbeau) came over and told me if I won we would clinch the match. On the next point, I just stopped worrying and forgot about it.”
Coventry welcomes the opportunity to compete in the NCAA round of 16 once again.
“It’s good to be back in the Sweet 16 and get a win over a really tough team,” Coventry said. “We were really focused on getting this win today. We feel like we’ve got nothing to lose, so we’re just going to go to Athens (Ga.) and play as well as we can.”
UK improves to 4-3 in NCAA-regional finals under coach Mark Guilbeau, the SEC and ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year.
No. 3 Kentucky 4, No. 28 Wake Forest 2