Women’s tennis rally late, defeat Syracuse in NCAA first round


Akvilė Paražinskaitė hits the ball during the University of Kentucky vs. Tennessee women’s tennis match on Sunday, March 28, 2021, at Hillary J. Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

Following a 14-7 (6-7 SEC) regular season, the No. 26 Kentucky Wildcats earned a berth into the NCAA Tennis Championship for the seventh straight year.  

The Wildcats will travel to Berkeley, California for the first two rounds of the tournament, hosted by the No. 16 overall seed California Golden Bears 

The Cats first-round matchup would pit them against the No. 42 Syracuse Orange out of the ACC. 

The 8-11 (5-8 ACC) Orange struggled to find a rhythm throughout their star-studded conference schedule, collecting only one win against a ranked opponent all Spring.  

The Wildcats found similar fate in the SEC, failing to win more than two matches consecutively in conference play, but put together a total of three ranked victories all Spring. 

Doubles play would feature the new No. 1 tandem in the country, UK’s Akvilė Paražinskaitė and Fiona Arrese. The pair crushed competition all season long, coming into the match with a 17-2 record as a team. The Orange would match with their own top pair, No. 38 Victoria Kanapatskaya and Natalie Novotna 

The Cats would strike first on court two as Carla Girbau and Anastasia Tkachenko powered past Polina Kozyreva and Sofya Treshcheva 6-2. 

Syracuse would answer, as Kanapatskaya and Novotna would pull off the major upset against No. 1 Paražinskaitė and Arrese, stunning the pair 6-3, bringing the crucial doubles point down to court three.  

Newly formed team Lesedi Jacobs and Elizabeth Stevens scored a 2-0 record in the regular season and would look to build off of that against the more experienced Syracuse pair, No78 Miranda Ramirez and Guzal Yusupova, who tallied a 9-8 record together this Spring.  

After a back-and-forth match, it was talent that trumped experience as Jacobs and Stevens outlasted Ramirez and Yusupova, winning the doubles point for Kentucky 6-4, giving UK the earl 1-0 lead into singles action.  

Court one would feature the lone-ranked matchup of the match, as No. 28 Paražinskaitė would seek her sixth ranked singles victory of the season against No. 11 Kanapatskaya. 

No. 115 Jacobs would pick up right where she left off in doubles play and defeat Yusupova 6-3, 6-3 on court two to double UK’s lead to 2-0, Jacob’s 10th singles win of the year in dual matches. 

The Orange would answer and get on the board on court three, as Novotna defeated Carlota Molina 6-1, 7-6. 

Syracuse would then even the match as Kanapatskaya won the court one battle, defeating Paražinskaitė 7-5, 6-3, swinging the momentum in favor of the Orange.  

Ramirez would continue that momentum for Syracuse as she avenged her doubles loss to Stevens on court four, winning 7-6 (1), 6-2, putting UK one point away from a sudden first-round exit.  

Girbau would even the match at three for Kentucky after a two-set win against Zeynep Erman, 6-4, 6-3, bringing the fate of the entire match down to court six. 

In what was the only three-set match of the afternoon, Arrese outlasted Kozyreva 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in a back-and-forth match from start to finish to give Kentucky the hard-fought win and move them into the second round of the NCAA Tennis Championship.  

The Wildcats will take on the winner of San Jose State and the No. 16 overall seed Cal. 

The match will take place at 4:00 p.m. E.T with a chance of moving into the super-regional in Orlando on the line.