NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The No. 46th ranked Stephen F. Austin women's tennis team achieved another first Saturday afternoon in what has become a mountain of program firsts under second year head coach Patrick Sullivan, but the most recent achievement is the biggest by far. The `Jacks knocked off Texas-Arlington, 4-0, in the Southland Conference Tournament Championship match at the Schlief Tennis Complex to claim the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
"It's a really exciting moment for all of us," said 2012 SLC Coach of the Year Patrick Sullivan. "To know that these girls can come back years from now remembered as the first team to go to the NCAA Championships is a great accomplishment."
The `Jacks continued their season-long trend of starting fast by scoring the first point of the match, but it didn't come without some tense moments. Freshmen Tereza Bekerova and Malena Gordo got an easy 8-0 win at No. 1 doubles, but Texas-Arlington returned the favor with an 8-2 decision at the No. 2 spot. SFA was able to pick up the point with the All-Southland Conference tandem of freshman Elena Kordolaimi and sophomore Laura Servise who pulled out a hard-fought 8-6 decision at No. 3 doubles.
"We haven't lost a doubles point since January. It is so important to get out to a quick start since you only play to eight. We put Laura (Servise) in the doubles lineup in our match at Tulane back in early March and she has been on a roll with Elena (Kordolaimi). That has been huge for us. She is a walk-on but that was the right move. She has come through in a big way," added Sullivan.
Junior Jithmie Jayawickrema gave SFA a two-point lead with her 6-0, 6-4 victory over Texas-Arlington's Christine Foote at No. 6 singles. From that point on SFA just needed two wins in the final five singles matches of which they already had one-set leads in three of them. Freshman Tereza Bekerova was the next to answer the call rattling off a 7-5, 6-2, win over the Lady Mavs' Natalia Mayuk at No. 3 singles. Classmate Malena Gordo iced the victory with her win at No. 4 singles. With a majority of the fans at her court, Gordo notched a 6-3, 6-2 win to punch SFA's first ticket to NCAA Championships.
"UTA is a good team, and they are a team that we respect," said Sullivan. "They play the game the right way. Today's match was not a revenge sort of thing. We're a proud team. We have a lot of girls that just love SFA, and they were embarrassed by that 4-0 loss. It wasn't a matter of revenge, but a matter of showing the real SFA team and we did that today."
The 2012 NCAA Tennis Championship Show will be Tuesday, May 1st at 4 p.m., and will broadcast on NCAA.com.