SAINT LEO, Fla. – The seventh-ranked Saint Leo University women's tennis team advanced in the NCAA Tournament courtesy of a thrilling 5-3 victory over No. 26 Florida Southern on Monday morning. The Lions will now play for the South Region 2 Championship against West Florida on Tuesday morning.
"Today was one of those days when you think is this really happening," Head Coach James Bryce said of the victory. "The girls responded excellent today after this morning's event and showed what true competitors they really are. We had a couple of big wins at No. 1 doubles and No. 1 singles today which made the difference. We know we have to play well tomorrow and execute in key moments. The girls have been preparing for this all season and are ready to play."
It was an unusual match from the warm ups as Saint Leo (18-5) saw an injury force Coach Bryce to alter his lineup, giving the visiting Moccasins a point before the first ball was served. Saint Leo responded in doubles play, sweeping through pairs action.
As the Lions moved into singles holding a 3-1 advantage with No. 6 singles already defaulted in Florida Southern's (16-8) favor, Emily Singleton quickly claimed a straight-sets win a No. 4 to put the Lions within a lone point of the match win.
Florida Southern would rally with the match on the line as Nos. 2 and 5 singles quickly fell in their favor. In a matter of a few minutes, the Lions saw their lead whittled down to 4-3 with two matches still in the balance.
With the nerves on edge and Coach Bryce keeping a close eye on both No. 1 and No. 3 singles, Pauline Helgesson used some clutch shots down the line to pull out the 7-5 tiebreak victory in the second set. Helgesson's win, with Maria Benkirane holding the advantage at No. 3 sent the Saint Leo fans into a frenzy and pushed the Lions' women into the Championship Match.
The Lions will be tested once again in less than 24 hours as Saint Leo will face No. 9 West Florida in the South Region 2 Championship Match at 9:30 a.m.
#7 Saint Leo 5, #26 Florida Southern 3
04/29/13 at Saint Leo, Fla. (Saint Leo Tennis Center)
|1. Pauline Helgesson (SLW) def. #18 Magda Riutort (FSCW) 6-4, 7-6 (7-5)|
|2. #30 Sabine Goge (FSCW) def. Adrianna Daszkiewicz (SLW) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2|
|3. Maria Benkirane (SLW) vs. Joalis Dominguez (FSCW) 5-7, 6-2, 2-2, unfinished|
|4. Emily Singleton (SLW) def. Christie Nunnemann (FSCW) 6-2, 6-1|
|5. Olivia Spagnuolo (FSCW) def. Phoebe Di Leo (SLW) 6-0, 3-6, 6-2|
|6. Laura Wichmann (FSCW) def. No player (SLW), by default|
|1. Maria Benkirane/Pauline Helgesson (SLW) def. #12 Magda Riutort/Sabine Goge (FSCW) 8-2|
|2. Emily Singleton/Laura Kemkes (SLW) def. Olivia Spagnuolo/Victoria Spagnuolo (FSCW) 8-2|
|3. Phoebe Di Leo/Adrianna Daszkiewicz (SLW) def. Joalis Dominguez/Laura Wichmann (FSCW) 8-4|
|Florida Southern 16-8; National ranking #26; Regional ranking #7|
|Saint Leo 18-5; National ranking #7; Regional ranking #2|
|Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (6,4,2,5,1)|
|NCAA South Region Semifinal Match #1|