Miami women’s tennis downs UCF to advance to Sweet 16

Third-year sophomore Maya Tahan attempts a forehand against Central Florida on May 7. at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables.
Third-year sophomore Maya Tahan attempts a forehand against Central Florida on May 7. at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

For the 24th time in program history, Miami is headed to the NCAA Team Championship Sweet 16.

The ninth-ranked and ninth-seeded Canes beat No. 21 Central Florida, 4-1, for the second time this season on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

“[UCF] is physical … the weather isn’t really an issue for them,” Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said. “You just have to raise it another notch, and we were able to do that today.”

Unlike the previous day’s match versus Stetson, Miami (19-5) faced adversity early, dropping the doubles point against the Knights (16-7).

UCF took the opening match, as Sophia Biolay and Nandini Sharma bested third-year sophomore Maya Tahan and freshman Tatyana Nikolenko, together ranked No. 76, by a 6-2 margin.

Fourth-year junior Daevenia Achong and fifth-year senior Eden Richardson equalized in a top-50 matchup. Miami’s 13th-ranked duo won a crucial deuce to take the match, 6-3, against No. 48 Evgeniya Levashova and Marie Mattel.

It all came down to Court 3, where sophomores Isabella Pfennig and Audrey Boch-Collins held a 5-3 lead over Jaleesa Leslie and Noel Saidenova after storming back from 30-40 deficits in back-to-back games. But the Knights fought off match point in the next game and took two more to regain the lead, 6-5. The Canes then leveled the score, 6-6, before losing in the tiebreaker. UCF clinched the opening point with a narrow 7-6 (7-3) victory.

From there, the Knights would not win another point, as Miami dominated singles play by taking four matches in straight sets.

First, Nikolenko continued her dominant play after replacing an injured Khodan in April, winning nine straight games en route to a triumphant 6-1, 6-1, victory over Biolay.

With the score tied at one apiece, No. 33 Achong gave Miami the lead for good, beating Saidenova, 6-1, 6-4, for the second time this year.

No. 37 Richardson extended the Canes’ lead to 3-1 after downing Levashova, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, on Court 1.

Seconds later, Boch-Collins sealed the match for the second straight day, besting Sharma, 6-4, 6-1.

“We were able to put [the doubles loss] aside and come out and play solid singles,” Yaroshuk Tews said. “I’m really proud of them.”

The Hurricanes have now won 25 consecutive matches at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in the NCAA tournament.

“We got to keep having fun and enjoying this,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “It’s win or go home … we’re not ready to go home, so we might as well win … We just got to stay loose and have fun and just keep working on the task at hand, which is to outcompete the other program.”

Miami will face eighth-ranked and eighth-seeded Pepperdine in Malibu, Cal. in the Sweet 16 on Friday at 4 p.m.