‘Canes send Tide home unhappy

The women’s tennis team (3-0) sent the Crimson Tide back to Alabama tired and battered after defeating them 5-2 on Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

The [‘Canes took care of two doubles matches and four out of six singles matches. Sophomore Melissa Applebaum and junior Megan Bradley fell in the first doubles spot 8-6. Applebaum’s deep shots, coupled with Bradley’s volleys, appeared to not be returnable at the beginning of the set, but ‘Bama fought back and took control of the momentum that was yo-yoing back and forth. Bradley’s last shot in the game that would break the tie at 6-6 ended up setting up a perfect volley opportunity that the Tide was able to capitalize on.

“It was us giving away easy points,” Bradley said. “They were definitely talented, but I don’t think we should have lost.”

At No. 2 doubles, seniors Sihem Bennacer and Sara Robbins came up big, winning 9-8 after a tiebreaker. The pair struggled in the first games of the set, but showed signs of revival after being down 7-2. They fought hard in the comeback and pulled ahead as a pivotal Robbins shot hit the net and then sailed over, and ‘Bama could not get to it in time. A few volleys later and Robbins was able to have the final say. Senior Mari Toro and freshman Audrey Banada also came up with an 8-4 victory.

“Our girls competed exceptionally well as a unit,” said Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk. “I’m proud of the presence and poise they had when they were down [in points]. That’s something we’d worked on in practice, and it’s nice to see them implement it in a match.”

At singles, Bradley shined through a hard-fought match, redeeming herself from the heartbreaking pro-set she had just played with Applebaum. Her deep shots were strong in the first set, but they began to sail long towards the end of the match. Her opponent, Robin Stephenson, looked consistent throughout the first set, winning 6-3. Bradley’s confidence took over from there, however, and stayed consistent in the last two sets, winning 7-6, 6-4. Her surge of energy at the end enabled her to close out a win, thanks to more accurate placement of her shots.

“I’m glad I pulled it out,” Bradley said. “I was definitely out there long enough.”

Yaroshuk shared in her joy, as did the rest of the crowd.

“Megan put it together at the right times and was able to come up with big shots,” she said.

Applebaum and Toro, second and third singles respectively, were not able to hold their own against Alabama. Applebaum fell 2-6, 6-1, 6-1, while Toro was defeated 6-3, 6-4. In the fourth through sixth spots, Miami came through once again. Staci Stevens won 7-5, 6-2, Banada held on for a 6-4, 6-1 win, and Bennacer won the final match 7-5, 6-1.

Bradley feels that the team is more cohesive and that she is more ready to play this season.

“Last year wasn’t so good, but this year I’m a lot healthier and in a lot better shape,” she said. “We’re building and keeping a bond. It’s nice to have people to hang around with off the court, too.”

Yaroshuk isn’t looking too far ahead yet, but she has faith that the team will continue to be successful.

“If there’s one thing that this team is, it’s hard workers. [The doubles matches] showed that they really wanted it,” she said.

As for the future, the team’s goals are simple yet challenging.

“[My goals are to] keep this team healthy and full of energy,” Yaroshuk said. “And to be knocking at the doors of Top 10 schools.”

The ‘Canes will face South Alabama on Friday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. in the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

Melissa Teich can be contacted at m.teich1@umiami.edu.