April 26, 2014
By Richard Finn
Special to BIGEAST.com
Men's Semifinal Results | Women's Semifinal Results | Photo Gallery
No. 1 DePaul vs. No. 3 Xavier - Women's Championship Match - 9 a.m.
No. 1 St. John's vs. No. 3 DePaul - Men's Championship Match - 12 p.m.
If outdoors, all matches to take place on Courts 11-16
FLUSHING, N.Y. – There was plenty of triumphs, drama, heartbreak and wonderful tennis across the grounds of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center on the penultimate day at the BIG EAST men’s and women’s tennis championships presented by New York Life on Saturday.
Playing on the indoor courts after heavy overnight rain, the top-seeded DePaul women (21-3) beat the home favorite No. 4 St. John’s (11-9) 4-1 in a tense match that was much closer than the final score indicates.
The second women semifinal was an epic battle between familiar foes No. 3 Xavier (19-5) and No. 2 Marquette (13-11) that finally went to the Musketeers 4-3. The match took six hours and 15 minutes to complete.
“We just competed unbelievably the entire time,” said Xavier assistant coach Doug Matthews. “This was a good summary of our season, just a lot of close matches and we have competed unbelievably well and we just did that again today.”
The clinching point came at No. 4 singles when junior Daniella Patton hit a winning forehand that just eluded the reach of an exhausted Marquette junior Vanessa Foltinger for a 6-7 (11-9), 6-4, 6-0 victory. The match took three hours and 34 minutes and finished just four minutes after Marquette sophomore Laia Hernandez Soler had won at No. 6 singles to knot the match at 3-3.
“I half expected for her to get it back,” Patton said of Foltinger who had beaten her in three sets in the regular season match won by the Golden Eagles 4-3. “Words can’t explain after you win a match like this.”
DePaul and Xavier will face off in the women’s championship on Sunday morning followed by the men’s title tilt between top-seeded St. John’s and No. 3 DePaul.
While the Red Storm (15-7) stormed into the final with a 5-0 blanking of No. 4 Xavier (14-11) on the outside courts at the home of the U.S. Open, the Marquette (16-9) and DePaul (11-13) clash came down to the final match for a Blue Demons 4-3 win.
In the decisive match at No. 6 singles, DePaul sophomore Kyle Johnson and Golden Eagles freshman Kristiyan Trukov battled each other, injuries and the elements before Johnson came out on top 6-4, 6-7 (9-7), 6-2.
After Trukov survived two match points in the tiebreaker to force a final set, the pair was knotted at 1-1 when rain forced the match indoors. Trailing 2-3 in the final set, Trukov crumpled to the court with leg cramps. After an injury timeout, Trukov got up and continued, but definitely hobbled he was unable to put up much of a fight the rest of the way.
“You don’t know how to play when a guy is hurt, he has nothing to lose and the pressure is on me to make balls and balls and keep him hitting the ball and that’s tough mentally,” said Johnson.
The first two singles matches in the DePaul-St. John’s women’s battle were titanic struggles of shot-making, will power and leg power lasting more than two hours.
At No. 1 singles Red Storm junior Nastya Polyakova beat sophomore Ana Vladutu 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 to even the match at 1-1. Mirror images of each other with powerful groundstrokes and booming first serves, the pair fought for two hours and 10 minutes.
The No. 2 singles match was the pivotal one as DePaul junior Patricia Fargas outlasted freshman Anna Morozova 6-7 (4-7), 6-0, 7-5, for a 2-1 lead.
“That was one of those mental matches, where the other girl did such a good job of making balls and competing, Patricia willed herself to win at the end,” said DePaul coach Mark Ardizzone.
Fargas was down 5-0 in the opening set before staging a furious comeback to get into the tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker she took a 3-0 but this time it was Morozova who rallied to win it 7-4.
“Bit disappointing to lose the set like that, but I said to myself I have to fight and stay out here as long as possible,” said the Spanish junior.
Fargas rebounded strongly to run off the second set in just 31 minutes before taking an apparent commanding 5-3 final set lead but Morozova fought back to knot the set at 5-5. The two players were like fighters, exchanging blows with punishing groundstrokes and amazing gets. Some rallies featured 20 or 30 shots.
“In the third set there was a lot of pressure and it was a bit like a lottery,” said Fargas , after the two hour and 31 minute match. “I think on the important points I played a big more aggressive.”
Ardizzone said, “It was back and forth, Patricia is really our best fighter. She has found ways to win and she found a way to win today. That win kind of took the wind out of them.”
There was a bit less dramatics in the final two DePaul wins. At No. 3 junior Jasmin Kling won in straight sets and in the clinching match, senior Kelly Lawson beat senior Diamond Adams 6-4, 6-3 at No. 4 singles.
“The strength of our team has been No. 4 through 6 all year long,” said DePaul coach Mark Ardizzone. “We knew the anchor was coming at the end.”