The Winthrop women's tennis team gave a valiant effort before falling to 14th-ranked Tennessee 4-0 in the NCAA tournament first round on Friday at the Barksdale Varsity Tennis Courts.
Winthrop (16-9) was ranked 66th in the latest ITA national rankings and was making its ninth NCAA tournament appearance and third straight as champions of the Big South. Tennessee (17-8) came into the tournament following a three-week layoff after finishing second in the Southeastern Conference championships.
The Lady Eagles dropped the doubles point to begin the match after the No. 1 duo of junior Elizaveta Zaytseva and freshman Yasmine Alkema fell 8-0 to UT's Caitlin Whoriskey and Natalie Pluskota. Tennessee also won at the No. 3 position 8-3 as Maria Sorbello and Kata Szekely pulled away from a 4-3 advantage to take the match over Winthrop's duo of juniors Sara Abutovich and Lisa Wilkinson.
Winthrop opened singles action by taking leads at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 position, but the Lady Volunteers fought back to win the first set in five of the six flights. Freshman Giovanna Portiolli was the only Winthrop player to win a set as she defeated Zsofia Zubor 6-4 and was tied 1-1 in the second set when play was halted Wilkinson dropped the No. 5 singles match, 6-2 and 6-1 to Jennifer Meredith while senior Paula Pereira closed out her Winthrop career with a 6-2, 6-1 loss at No. 6 to UT's Katie Lee. Junior Sandra Herrera took a 3-0 lead in her first set at the No. 3 position to give the Lady Eagles an early lift, but UT's Rosia Alda scored six straight points to win 6-3 followed by a 6-2 score in the deciding match..
"I was really proud of how hard our girls played today. They gave a great effort," Winthrop coach Cid Carvalho said.
"I told our players after the match that they are very close to getting ranked higher next year so that we don't have to face a team like Tennessee in the first round, but we proved we can compete with these teams. Our goal next season is to get at least a No. 3 seed and if we do we can get a win in the tournament."