MUNCIE, IN – The University at Buffalo women's tennis team successfully defended their Mid-American Conference title on Sunday afternoon as the Bulls won their 14th straight match, defeating Miami, 4-2, in the 2018 Mid-American Conference championship match. With the victory, the Bulls have claimed the MAC's automatic bid and will move on to the NCAA Tournament, which begins on May 11.
Like yesterday, the Bulls dropped the doubles points as the second-seeded Miami RedHawks won matches at second and third doubles, each by 6-2 scores. With that, Miami took the early 1-0 lead.
However, as they have done all season, the Bulls dominated the action in singles play. Junior Arianna Paules Aldrey tied the match up at 1-1 with a 6-3, 6-0 win at sixth singles, while senior Tanja Stojanovska had another straight sets win with a 6-3, 6-3 victory at second singles to put the Bulls up 2-1. For Stojanovska, it was her 19th win of the season, giving her 82 for her career, one away from tying for the school record.
The other four matches all went into third sets against a Miami team that prior to Saturday's match had won eight of nine matches with its lone loss coming against Buffalo. The Bulls extended their lead to 3-1 as sophomore Emel Abibula overcame a first-set loss as she won at fourth singles, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. At one point in the match, Abibula had won nine straight games.
The RedHawks got on the board at first singles with a three-set victory between the two top players in the league in UB's Chantal Martinez Blanco and Miami's Nelli Ponomareva, the MAC Player of the Year.
However, Buffalo was still in good position as it was playing third sets at both third and fifth singles, overcoming first set losses in both cases. At fifth singles, junior Sanjana Sudhir lost her opening set 6-4 before winning the second set 6-3. She was tied 2-2 in the third set, but her match would go unfinished because senior Lolade Ogungbesan was taking care of business at three.
Ogungbesan dropped a tough opening set 7-5, but she responded with a 6-2 win in the second and then dominated her third set. She picked up a pair of early breaks to go up 5-2 in the set and despite dropping the next game on serve, she picked up another huge break, which clinched the match and the championship for Buffalo.
"What this team has achieved this regular season and MAC Tournament is nothing short of spectacular," said head coach Kristen Maines, the 2018 MAC Coach of the Year. "All the work on and off the court showed in every match they played this year. Being the number one seed, we knew teams would be gunning for us and they were. Miami played outstanding tennis and really tested us, but this team and these girls were just too good this weekend. They performed like champions and I am so happy for Tanja and Lolade to finish off their college careers with a trip to the NCAA Tournament. For them to play such clean singles all weekend is why they are champions at heart."
The Bulls improved to 17-3 on the season, tying the school record for victories, which was achieved in 2006-07.
Buffalo will now advance to its second straight NCAA Tournament and the third in school history, the first coming 10 years ago this year. The Bulls will find out their destination and opponent on Tuesday at 5pm during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, which will stream live on NCAA.com.
- Nelli Ponomareva/A. Vasiukhina (MIA) vs. Chantal Martinez Blanco/Lolade Ogungbesan (UB), 4-3, unfinished
- Milana Lysova/Priyanan Kalita (MIA) def. Tanja Stojanovska/Anna Savchenko (UB), 6-2
- Emily Struble/Melati Devi (MIA) def. Emel Abibula/Arianna Paules Aldrey (UB), 6-2
Order of Finish: 2,3
- Nelli Ponomareva (MIA) def. Chantal Martinez Blanco (UB), 0-6, 6-2, 6-2
- Tanja Stojanovska (UB) def. Milana Lysova (MIA), 6-3, 6-3
- Lolade Ogungbesan (UB) def. Emily Struble (MIA), 5-7, 6-2, 6-3
- Emel Abibula (UB) def. Priyanan Kalita (MIA), 3-6, 6-0, 6-3
- Sanjana Sudhir (UB) vs. Lena Babunski (MIA), 4-6, 6-3, 2-2
- Arianna Paules Aldrey (UB) def. Makenzie Myers (MIA), 6-3, 6-0
Order of Finish: 6,2,4,1,3