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April 9, 2008
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - During a tight match filled with emotion, the USC Upstate women's tennis team couldn't rely on two better players than their senior leaders in Diana Martinez (Medellin, Colombia/Nuestra del Senora) and Maria Herrera (Buenos Aires, Argentina). Both came through with tough three-set wins, as Upstate clinched a share of the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title with a 5-2 win over ETSU on Wednesday afternoon at the ETSU Tennis Courts.
The win ensures a piece of the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season crown for the Spartans, who are 16-3 overall and 10-0 in the A-Sun and is both the first women's tennis regular season league title in the school's history and the first Atlantic Sun Conference team championship in school history. The Spartans are in their first year as a member of the conference after spending the past 17 years in the Peach Belt Conference, one of the toughest tennis conferences in NCAA Division II.
Now Upstate (16-3 overall, 10-0 A-Sun) will get a chance to claim the Atlantic Sun title outright on Thursday when Campbell visits the USC Upstate Tennis Complex for a 2:30 p.m. match. The Camels enter the contest with a 14-6 overall record and a 5-4 conference mark.
"It feels great," Martinez said. "It shows how tough a team we are."
The Spartans' toughness showed in many instances on Wednesday afternoon. In doubles, junior Anna Novo (Caracas, Venezuela/El-Angel) and freshman Emilia Milovanovic (Paris, France/CNED) took a 3-0 lead against Yevgeniya Stupek and Olya Batsula before the ETSU duo came back to tie the match. However, the pair swung momentum back in their favor to take an 8-5 win at the No. 1 slot.
After a loss at No. 2 doubles, the Spartans' No. 3 duo of Martinez and Herrera came from behind to win in a tiebreaker. Down 5-4, the duo scored the next three points against Elena Volobveva and Whitney Trotter to win the match, 9-8 (5) and get the Spartans the point.
In singles play, junior Daniela Lovera (Caracas, Venezuela/Santa Rosa Lima) posted a 6-2, 6-1 win over Andra Voinea at No. 4 singles to open up a 2-0 lead, but minutes later the match was tied as the Bucs took matches at No. 2 and No. 3 singles.
Novo followed with a 6-4, 6-3 win at No. 1 singles against Stupak, to give Upstate a 3-2 margin. She came back in the first set from a 2-0 deficit to win six of the next eight games to take control of the match, her school-record 28th singles win of the season.
After the two-set matches were finished, the teams grouped around the remaining two courts, with Martinez playing at the No. 5 slot and Herrera at the No. 6 slot.
"We were really nervous," senior Susana Hernandez said. "We just tried to have positive energy and support them. We had confidence in them because they are senior leaders."
Martinez came back from a one-set deficit and fought through two match points to finally seal the win in the third set against Volobueva for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 5 singles. Herrera finished moments later, taking a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win against Vita Moskahova at No. 6 singles.
"I was worried going into the set," Martinez, the school's all-time wins leader, said. "When you're playing a match, everything goes through your mind, like my freshman year where I was the last one on the court in the deciding match against North Florida. Because I was a senior, I was able to use that and my experience."
Then Martinez smiled, "I knew if I lost, Maria would win, because I have faith in her."
Women's Tennis Results Upstate 5, ETSU 2 Singles competition 1. Anna Novo (UPST) def. Yevgeniya Stupak (ETSU) 6-4, 6-3 2. Olya Batsula (ETSU) def. Susana Hernandez (UPST) 6-4, 6-2 3. Tara Byrne (ETSU) def. Emilia Milovanovic (UPST) 6-4, 6-2 4. Daniela Lovera (UPST) def. Andra Voinea (ETSU) 6-2, 6-1 5. Diana Martinez (UPST) def. Elena Volobueva (ETSU) 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 6. Maria Herrera (UPST) def. Vita Moskaliova (ETSU) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 Doubles competition 1. Anna Novo/Emilia Milovanovic (UPST) def. Yevgeniya Stupak/ Olya Batsula (ETSU) 8-5 2. Tara Byrne/Vita Moskaliova (ETSU) def. Susana Hernandez/ Daniela Lovera (UPST) 8-6 3. Diana Martinez/Maria Herrera (UPST) def. Elena Volobueva/ Whitney Trotter (ETSU) 9-8 (7-5) Match Notes: USC Upstate 16-3, 10-0 A-Sun East Tennessee State 12-9, 8-3 A-Sun Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (4,2,3,1,5,6) T-4:15 A-56