April 24, 2014
Women's Tennis Championship Central | Photo Gallery
By Richard Finn
Special to BIGEAST.com
FLUSHING, N.Y. – The Villanova and Butler women warmed up to the task on a blustery opening day at the BIG EAST Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships presented by New York Life for first-round upsets at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Thursday.
The No. 9 Wildcats reversed a regular season loss to Providence to beat the eighth-seeded Friars 5-1 while No. 10 seed Butler defeated No. 7 Creighton 4-1.
Villanova (6-16) now faces the formidable challenge of taking on top-seeded DePaul. The Blue Demons (19-3, 4-0) are ranked No. 46 in the country and did not drop a single match in league play.
But, that is another match for another day as Villanova coach Steve Reiniger basked in the warmth of a hard-earned win.
“We are more than happy to play the next guys up,” said Reiniger. “We were on fire today. The kids really stepped up. I am just as happy as a coach can be today. That was our goal (this season) to come in and win this match. Mission accomplished.”
The Bulldogs (5-16) now play No. 2 Marquette (12-10) as the tournament kicks into full swing with women’s quarterfinals and the men starting play with quarterfinals matches on Friday at the home of the U.S. Open.
The Friars (5-16) had beaten Villanova 6-1 in the regular season and when they took the doubles point it did not look all that promising.
Senior Mikelle Mancini got the Wildcats off to a winning start at No. 1 singles by beating senior Maria Clara Bernardez 7-5, 6-0. Mancini saved a set point down 5-4 with a perfectly struck forehand lob winner and then took command running off the final eight games of the match.
“She is just mentally tough, a real competitive kid,” said Reiniger.
It was Villanova freshman Linley Busby who clinched the victory at No. 5 singles with a gutsy 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 over sophomore Hannah Zangari. Busby was down 0-4 in the second set but she kept her composure to mount the comeback.
“I told myself to keep working hard,” said Busby. “I wasn’t going to give up. I took it one point at a time.”
Busby closed out the match with a beautiful backhand half-volley winner and then was mobbed by her teammates.
“I love it, I love it,” Reiniger said as he watched his team celebrate. “When she won the second set I thought she had it in her to win. I didn’t question that she would win the match.”
Two of the three singles wins by Butler went to three sets highlighting how evenly matched the teams were, said Bulldogs coach Tayo Bailey.
“From looking at Creighton’s record I thought we would have a good chance and it would be a very competitive match and so it went kind of as expected,” said Bailey.
Senior Stephanie McLoughlin wrapped up the Bulldogs’ victory at No. 1 singles with 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win against junior Jennie Hartjes. At No. 4 singles freshman Kailey Eaton beat junior Amanda Noonan 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Marquette blanked the Bulldogs in a regular season match early in the season indoors, but this is a different contest with different playing conditions, according to Bailey.
“I told my girls that we are now outdoors and outdoors is an equalizer,” said Bailey. “If we are able to take the elements and use them as a strength and not get frustrated by them, then that can be an edge and we can be a little bit more successful this time around.”
Women's First Round
No. 9 Villanova 5, No. 8 Providence 1
1. Maria Bernardez and Karen Ramirez (PC) def. Mikelle Mancini and Tori Smyth (VU), 8-6
2. Linley Busby and Kate Pettee (VU) leading Alana Prinos and Hannah Zangari (PC), 7-6
3. Jennifer DeLuca and Amanda Pitocco (PC) def. Samantha Schafer and Connor Brewer (VU), 8-5
Order of finish: 3, 1 (2 DNF)
1. Mancini (VU) def. Bernardez (PC) 7-5, 6-0
2. Smyth (VU) def. Prinos (PC) 0-6, 6-3, 6-3
3. Schafer (VU) def. DeLuca (PC) 7-6 (4), 6-2
4. Pettee (VU) def. Ramirez (PC) 6-1, 6-4
5. Busby (VU) def. Zangari (PC) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
6. Olivia Hogan (PC) led Brewer (VU) 7-6 (3), 2-6, 1-0
Order of finish: 1, 4, 3, 5, 2 (6 DNF)
Note: Matches 5 and 2 finished at approximately the same time.
No. 10 Butler 4, No. 7 Creighton 1
1. Stephanie McLoughlin and Kailey Eaton (BU) def. Jennie Hartjes and Katherine Nelsen (CU) 8-6
2. Grace Hyde and Angelina Qin (BU) def. Analese Snyder and Amanda Noonan (CU) 8-4
3. Jocelyn Koester and Konstantina Adami (BU) led Sam Anderson and Liz Vermillion (CU) 7-5
Order of finish: 1, 2 (3 DNF)
1. McLoughlin (BU) def. Hartjes (CU) 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
2. Adami (BU) led Snyder (CU) 6-0, 6-6 (5-3)
3. Nelsen (CU) def. Hyde (BU) 6-1, 6-1
4. Eaton (BU) def. Noonan (CU) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
5. Qin (BU) led Anderson (CU) 7-6, 0-6, 4-3
6. Koester (BU) def. Karlin Naslund (CU) 6-2, 6-1
Order of finish: 3, 6, 4, 1 (2 and 5 DNF)