Cats take in-state sweep in women’s tennis


University of Kentucky Women’s Tennis player Justina Mikulskyte competes against the Northern Kentucky University Norse on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Hailey Peters

With their third straight win of their spring schedule, the Cats are beginning to form a serious winning streak. After playing earlier in the day and sweeping Miami (OH), the UK Wildcats tennis team did not slow in their dominance at home with a powerful 6-0 sweep of instate opponent Western Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 18.

“In the beginning, [winning] gives us confidence,” said senior Justina Mikulskyte. “I think it’s going to be a good season when this early winning happens.”

The match was 1-0 in favor of the Cats before it even started, since the Toppers only brought five girls to play. Despite the doubles point already being clinched, the top two seeded doubles teams still played out their matches.

Anastasia Tkachenko and Alexis Merrill closed out their match extremely quickly, exhibiting immense strength and managing their court well. What started out as a shaky back-and-forth between points within each game, the Cats came out victoriously winning six games to two.

The claim to victory was soon shared by the Cats’ first doubles team, which consisted of Tiphanie Fiquet and Akvile Parazinskaite. At first, it was in question if the doubles team would shut out their Toppers opponents, but as their match went on, the opposition began running out of steam, causing them to give up two games and share the match score of their teammates.

The doubles point was clinched from the start, but the playing out the matches was still an important way of foreshadowing that Kentucky would dominate WKU once it came to singles matches.

“It’s always good to have a solid base,” said junior Lesedi Jacobs. “This is it. Every match counts in college tennis even though it’s early.”

Setting the precedent high for the rest of her team and stepping in for her twin in the third-seeded spot, Tkachenko completely shut out her opponent, not allowing a single game to be won by the Topper. Merrill shared the same victory, battling slightly harder against a higher-ranked WKU player in order to prevent the visitor from claiming a single game.

The remaining singles matches ended in only two sets. UK number one seed Parazinskaite played an exceptionally difficult game against the best player that Western had, but support and cheers all around from her fellow teammates and potentially the presence of UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart propelled her to the exhaustive finish (6-1, 6-3). Fiquet soon after closed out her match in a 2-set sweep, only allowing one game to be won by her WKU equivalent.

Brianna Tulloch made her first appearance in the final singles match of the day as a write-in player after Diana Tkachenko was taken out of the lineup, and was cheered on by her entire team and the crowd anxiously waiting for a final score. After a long match in which Tkachenko came back from three 40-love deficits to claim games within her sets, Tulloch delivered the sweep for her team, winning her two sets 6-1 and 6-3, respectively.

“Next weekend is going to be hard,” said Mikulskyte. “There will be a lot of good teams and all the girls will have to do their individual best for the benefits of the team.”

The Wildcats will play their next match against Auburn in neutral Atlanta as part of ITA kickoff weekend on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 1 p.m.