The No. 19 Tennessee Lady Vols tennis dominated play this weekend in the ITA Kick-Off held in Knoxville.
Tennessee defeated No. 58 UC Davis on Friday by a score of 5-0. The victory was No. 600 in the program’s history. They followed up the first win of the season with a victory over No. 22 Tulsa. The tournament win punches the Vols a trip to the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship Feb. 10-13 at the University of Virginia.
“We are really excited to be moving on to Charlottesville,” co-head coach Mike Patrick said. “Our kids played great and I am really proud of them. We want to keep improving every day. We have a young enough team that the little goals like learning how to handle pressure situations, staying aggressive and playing hard are the little things that need to happen on a daily basis.”
One of the main reasons for the Lady Vols’ success was senior Natalie Pluskota making it back into the singles lineup. Pluskota wasn’t able to compete in singles matches to open the season due to recovering from a stress fracture injury.
“I am pumped to be back out there to help us win and compete,” Pluskota said. “It’s always nerve-racking that first match, but ready to get back into it.”
Tennessee opened the weekend tournament against UC Davis. Pluskota and freshman Caitlyn Williams took their match 8-0, while freshman Sarah Toti and sophomore Brynn Boren won 8-1. These victories gave the Lady Vols the doubles point.
Lady Vols continued that dominance over into the singles competition. Pluskota also took a 4-0 lead to start the match, but dropped two straight to bring the match close.
“I had to refocus myself and slow down a little bit,” Pluskota said. “I started to continue to look for more forward hands to work the opponent off the court.”
Pluskota took the singles match 6-2, 6-1. Toti, Boren and freshman Joanna Henderson all won their singles matches to send the Lady Vols to victory.
On Saturday, the Lady Vols were challenged with Tulsa. However, continuing to play with the same mindset as Friday, the Lady Vols once again had no problem in the win column.
Pluskota and Williams wrapped up another doubles win 8-4, while Boren and Toti finished shortly after them, notching the doubles point. Although in the lead for the second straight day, junior Kata Szelkey and Henderson’s match was unfinished due to already securing the doubles point.
Boren took her singles match 6-3, 6-2. Toti won with a score of 6-4, 6-3, and Henderson 6-2, 6-3, giving the Vols the championship and sending them to nationals.
“With her (Pluskota) back in there gives everyone a lot more confidence,” Patrick said. “It pushes everyone in the lineup to a spot where they are more comfortable and get more experience.”
The Lady Vols return to action Friday when they take on Notre Dame at home in Goodfriend Tennis Center.