Huskies Beat Ducks For Third-Straight Pac-12 Win
SEATTLE – Matches like these were exactly what Nika Zupancic had in mind when she returned to the Huskies at the start of spring quarter. The junior from Slovenia showed her typical toughness in battling back from a set down to beat her Oregon singles opponent, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and clinch a crucial 4-2 win for the Huskies over 44th-ranked Oregon.
It's the third-straight Pac-12 win for the Huskies (12-6, 4-5 Pac-12), coinciding nicely with Zupancic's return to the lineup. She spent the fall and winter at home due to the pandemic but felt ready to return a few weeks back.
"I've been trying to find enough strength to come back because I knew the girls had been struggling and I'd been struggling without them as well," Zupancic said. "So when I felt like mentally I was fine, I came back, and my whole goal when I'm here is to give them as much as I can. My energy, my wins, anything that I have, and I feel like I succeeded in that today."
Every win is big for the Huskies as they look to make the NCAA tournament. Oregon (12-6, 5-4 Pac-12), ranked 44th in the computer rankings and 37th in the coaches poll, was coming off a big victory over Stanford last week.
Dawg Pile on Court 4???? In her first home match back since returning to the squad, Nika clinches the Husky win, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
— Washington Women's Tennis (@UW_WTennis) April 10, 2021
"Credit to our team," said Head Coach Robin Stephenson. "We've had some tough losses earlier in the season, but the last few weeks we've gotten better and better. Nika coming back adds some depth and experience to our lineup. But I just feel like we're playing better as a whole. Losing the doubles point, we knew was one of Oregon's best spots, and we knew we could win at every spot in singles. Oregon's been playing really well, so this is a huge win for us, and gives us confidence going forward."
Zupancic's final point came at the No. 4 spot over Oregon's Uxia Martinez Moral. As she won, junior Sedona Gallagher was one game away at the No. 3 spot, as she was battling Lillian Mould and had taken the lead, 6-4, 5-7, 5-3, but did not get to finish.
After dropping the doubles point, the Huskies quickly showed they were ready for singles, winning the first game on all six courts, and eventually taking four of the six first sets.
Juinor Zoey Weil was first to finish, as she earned a 6-2, 6-3 win over Ares Teixida at No. 6. Oregon's top player, 121st-ranked Jessica Tjen, upset 52nd-ranked Vanessa Wong, 6-1, 6-4, but then freshman Sarah-Maude Fortin earned her fourth-straight win with a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles over Rifanty Kahfiani. Freshman Tara Chilton then put the Huskies up, 3-2, with a clutch 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 5 singles over Julia Eshet.
"Tara and Zoey were big time," said Stephenson. "Earlier on in the season they had some growing pains, but they've been so in the process of getting better day by day, and practicing the right way. They've had good attitudes and it's paying off. We didn't have a fall season and we had matches taken out of our spring so I feel like we're just now hitting our stride."
Oregon took the doubles point with a rally at the top spot. Oregon won the No. 2 match, 6-1, but the Huskies had 3-0 leads on courts one and three. Oregon's duo of Martinez Moral and Kahfiani came back at the first spot and earned a 7-5 win over Wong and Fortin to clinch. Chilton and Zupancic were down 5-6 at the three spot at the time and did not finish.
Next week the Huskies will play a midweek road match at Gonzaga on Wednesday before returning home to host Washington State in the Pac-12 finale on Friday, Apr. 16.
Washington Women's Tennis
April 9, 2021
Nordstrom Tennis Center | Seattle, Wash.
#--/48 Washington – 4
#44/37 Oregon – 2
1. (#121) Janice Tjen (Ore) def. (#52) Vanessa Wong (UW) – 6-1, 6-4
2. Sarah-Maude Fortin (UW) def. Rifanty Kahfiani (Ore) – 6-1, 6-2
3. Sedona Gallagher (UW) vs. Lillian Mould (Ore) – 6-4, 5-7, 5-3, DNF
4. Nika Zupancic (UW) def. Uxia Martinez Moral (Ore) – 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
5. Tara Chilton (UW) def. Julia Eshet (Ore) – 6-2, 6-4
6. Zoey Weil (UW) def. Ares Teixido (Ore) – 6-2, 6-3
Order of Finish: 6, 1, 2, 5, 4
1. Martinez Moral/Kahfiani (ORE) def. Wong/Fortin (UW) – 7-5
2. Tjen/Mould (ORE) def. Weil/Gallagher (UW) – 6-1
3. Chilton/Zupancic (UW) vs. Mulville/Eshet (Ore) – 5-6, DNF
Order of Finish: 2, 1