Miami women’s tennis resumes ACC play, upset by No. 44 Notre Dame

Sophomore Isabella Pfennig prepares to hit a ball against singles opponent Jennifer Kerr of Columbia at the Miami Open on Friday, April 1, 2022.
Sophomore Isabella Pfennig prepares to hit a ball against singles opponent Jennifer Kerr of Columbia at the Miami Open on Friday, April 1, 2022. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Friday’s contest against Notre Dame marked two firsts for Miami this season: playing indoors and losing to a lower-ranked team.

Only a week removed from a non-conference victory versus Columbia at the Miami Open, No. 8 UM fell to No. 44 Notre Dame, 5-2, at Eck Tennis Pavilion in Indiana as they resumed ACC play. With the loss, the Hurricanes moved to 15-12 against the Fighting Irish all-time and 2-6 on the road.

“Notre Dame looked like the better team today,” Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said. “They played bigger and more aggressive. They deserved this one.”

Coming into the day, Yaroshuk-Tews knew the Fighting Irish would be difficult to face, particularly in doubles.

They’re a good doubles team. They play correct doubles; we play more untraditional doubles,” she said. “They move forward. They want to try to get us to commit the unforced error just by the move alone.”

In a clash of different styles, Miami’s untraditional play failed, as it lost the doubles point for just the fourth time in 17 matches this year.

On Court 2, third-year sophomore Maya Tahan, who normally forms Miami’s No. 65 doubles duo with Diana Khodan, was paired with freshman Tatyana Nikolenko for the first time this season. Lacking chemistry, they went down 5-0, before showing some improvement by taking the next two games. The lead was insurmountable, as Julia Andreach and Yashna Yellayi stopped the comeback in the next game, winning 6-2.

In a top-50 battle, the Canes’ No. 20 pair of fifth-year senior Eden Richardson and fourth-year junior Daevenia Achong quickly went down a break and never came back, as No. 41 Maria Olivia Castedo and Paige Freeman beat them, 6-4, to secure the doubles point.

Play was suspended in the final contest, with Isabella Pfennig and Audrey Boch-Collins tied against Carrie Beckman and Nibedita Ghosh, 5-5.

In singles, Miami (13-4, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) fought hard, taking the Fighting Irish (12-8, 5-5 ACC) to three sets in four matches, but it was not enough.

First, No. 48 Richardson and No. 28 Achong, the Hurricanes’ highest-ranked singles players, lost in straight sets.

On Court 1, No. 90 Freeman, Notre Dame’s only ranked player, increased the lead to two by thumping Richardson, 6-1, 6-3. Shortly after, Achong’s 12-game winning streak ended, falling to Andreach, 7-5, 6-2.

Down three points, Nikolenko narrowed the gap, securing her first collegiate win by defeating Meghan Coleman, 6-0, 5-7, 6-2, to make it 3-1.

For a moment, the Canes seemed poised for a comeback. In the three-remaining contests, Miami had the advantage in two of them, with Pfennig up 3-0 on Yellayi and Boch-Collins leading Castedo, 5-2. In the other one, Tahan was level with Ghosh, 3-3.

Ghosh quickly crushed any hopes the Hurricanes had by winning three straight games to down Tahan, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, and clinch the match, 4-1.

Both remaining matches were played out, and Boch-Collins finished first, holding on for a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 triumph over Castedo for UM’s second point.

In the final match, No. 74 Pfennig lost five straight games in the third set but rallied to level it at 5-5. From there, both competitors struggled to keep a lead before Yellayi eventually won the tightest contest of the afternoon in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4).

On Sunday, the Hurricanes play their final road match of the regular season, looking to bounce back against the Louisville Cardinals at noon.