Sunday, December 10, 2023

W&M Women’s Tennis’s Valiant Comeback Falls Short in CAA Championship

W&M women's tennis
(WYDaily/Courtesy of William & Mary Athletics)

WILLIAMSBURG — William & Mary (W&M) women’s tennis valiantly rallied back from an early deficit, but in the end, suffered a 4-2 setback to James Madison in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship match on Sunday afternoon at the Millie West Tennis Facility.

After JMU (14-3) won the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead, junior Mila Saric and senior Vitoria Okuyama continued their strong singles play with straight-sets victories at No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, to get the Tribe (7-9) on the board. Each player increased their win streak with Saric going to eight in a row and Okuyama to four. JMU answered with wins at No. 3 and No. 6 to lead 3-2 following Saric’s win.

With graduate student Jill van den Dungen leading in the third set at No. 2, the match came down to the No. 5 spot. After JMU senior Alexis Franco won the opening set and jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second, sophomore Raffaela Alhach responded by winning four-straight games to take a 5-4 lead. Unfortunately, Franco won the final three games to clinch the championship for the Dukes.

How It Happened
– JMU took a 1-0 lead by capturing the important doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3. At the top spot, Tribe tandem of graduate student Jill van den Dungen and senior Vitoria Okuyama were up a break at 5-4 over JMU’s Daria Afanasyeva and Alexis Franco when the match was abandoned.
– Okuyama won her fourth in a row at No. 4 to get W&M on the board. After winning the first set, 6-2, the Tribe senior won the final two games of the second to pull out a 6-3 and even at the match at one. Okuyama notched her 30th career singles win, improving to 8-6 overall and 5-2 at No. 4.
– The Dukes responded with wins at No. 3 and No. 6 to take a 3-1 lead.
– Saric continued her dominant play at the CAA Tournament to start the Tribe rally. She upended Daria Afanasyeva, 6-1, 6-3, at the top spot to avenge a regular-season, three-set loss to the Dukes sophomore. Saric ran her win streak to eight matches and upped her ledger to 11-2 at the top spot.
– The balance of the match came down to the No. 2 and No. 5 positions. On line five, Franco won the opening set, 6-2, and jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second. Alhach won four-straight games to take a 5-4 lead, but Franco won the final three to pull out the clinching victory. She broke Alhach at five-all and served out the match to clinch the championship.
– At No. 2, van den Dungen jumped out to a set advantage, rolling in the first, 6-1, over Jona Roka. After the JMU senior won the second, 7-5, van den Dungen won the opening three games of the third and led 3-1 when the match was abandoned with the team results decided.

#1 James Madison 4, #3 William & Mary 2
No. 1 – Mila Saric (W&M) def. Daria Afanasyeva (JMU) – 6-1, 6-3
No. 2 – Jill van den Dungen (W&M) vs. Jona Roka (JMU) – DNF, 6-1, 5-7, 3-1
No. 3 – Natalia Nikolopoulou (JMU) def. Elisa Van Meeteren (W&M) – 6-2, 6-1
No. 4 – Vitoria Okuyama (W&M) def. Kylie Moulin (JMU) – 6-2, 6-3
No. 5 – Alexis Franco (JMU) def. Raffaela Alhach (W&M) – 6-2, 7-5
No. 6 – Daniela Voloh (JMU) def. Alisia Manolescu (W&M) – 6-1, 6-3
Finishing Order: 4, 3, 6, 1, 5*

No. 1 – van den Dungen/Okuyama (W&M) vs. Afanasyeva/Franco (JMU) – DNF, 5-4
No. 2 – Roka/Moulin (JMU) def. Saric/Manolescu (W&M) – 6-1
No. 3 – Nikolopoulou/Amanda Nord (JMU) def. Alhach/Van Meeteren (W&M) – 6-2
Finishing Order: 2, 3*

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