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Senior Mary Anne Daines came through in the clutch to win 7-5, 6-7, 10-6 on court one to clinch Alabama's 4-3 victory over Rice in the finals at the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. With the win, the 14th-ranked Crimson Tide improves to 8-2 on the season, while the loss drops the 24th-ranked Owls to 5-4 overall.
"This was a nail-biter and a gutsy performance by Mary Anne to pull out the win," said Alabama Coach Jenny Mainz. "She has worked so hard and competed so well. To reap the rewards today against a very good opponent made for an epic finish."
Alabama got on top again early, winning its eighth doubles point of the season. Senior Mary Anne Daines and freshman Danielle Spielmann won their fourth match in a row together, beating Rice freshman Katherine Ip and senior Dominique Harmath, 6-2, on court two. The Owls would even the count with a 6-3 victory on court one, but the Tide closed it out and took the point as juniors Emily Zabor and Luicelena Perez came away with a 6-4 win on court three against senior Kimberly Anicete and freshman Alison Ho.
Rice won the first two singles matches to take a 2-1 lead, but a come-from-behind win from sophomore Maya Jansen, 1-6, 6-2, 10-7, on court three would even the match at 2-2. Rice jumped on top again with a victory on court five, which wouldn't last long as Perez won 6-1, 7-5 on court six to, yet again, tie the match. With the team victory on the line at court one, Daines put it into overdrive and overcame a 4-1 deficit in the second set to send it to a tiebreak, which the Owls' Natalie Beazant would win. In the third-set tiebreaker, it was all Daines, who won nine of the first 12 points and eventually took the set 10-6.
"This was a great collegiate match both ways," added Mainz. "I commend Rice. They are a tough team. We really willed ourselves to this win. It was the ultimate team effort. We've really been battle-tested and this should pay dividends in SEC play."
Next up, the Alabama women's tennis team opens Southeastern Conference play with Mississippi State on Friday. First serve is slated for 5 p.m. CST at The University of Alabama Tennis Stadium.
The Alabama men's tennis team came back after losing the doubles point to beat Auburn, 4-1, on Sunday in the consolation finals of the Blue Gray. With the victory, the Crimson Tide improves to 6-5 on the season, while the loss drops the Tigers to 10-4 overall.
"What a great match," said Alabama Coach George Husack. "There was a great crowd, great energy and great resolve. Our plan was to be energetic and gritty from the get go. We were not sharp in doubles, but it didn't deflate us."
Auburn's doubles point came with wins on courts one and two as senior Daniel Cochrane and freshman Oliver Plaskett beat senior Daniil Proskura and freshman Nikko Madregallejo, 6-2, and 60th-ranked junior Lukas Ollert and senior Dennis Lengsfeld topped sophomore Becker O'Shaughnessey and freshman Sean Donohue, 6-3, respectively.
The momentum turned Alabama's way in singles quickly as the top of the lineup got two wins with 12th-ranked Proskura winning 6-0, 6-4 over Ollert and 72nd-ranked O'Shaughnessey defeating Lengsfeld, 6-4, 6-2. Madregallejo had, possibly, his best match to date, grinding out a 6-5, 6-5 win over freshman Petar Tomic on court four to put the Tide within one point away from the Alabama victory. From there, Donohue would clinch the match, coming from behind to defeat No. 85 freshman Dante Saleh, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 on court five. The remaining matches would go unfinished once the fourth point was secured.
"There were ‘Let's Go Bama' cheers throughout the facility as the women were finishing a thriller of their own when we began singles," added Husack. "I think their win was a huge boost for us and kept the Alabama momentum rolling. The guys gave it their all, and to win in the end made this day extra special."
Alabama's men team returns to the court on Friday when it starts SEC play at Mississippi State. The match is slated to begin at 1 p.m. CST.