OXFORD, Miss. – For the second match in a row, the OIe Miss women’s tennis team battled a top-20 team for over six hours. Unfortunately, the result was the same, as the Rebels suffered another 4-3 heartbreaker, this time to No. 17 Auburn.
On Friday against No. 5 Alabama, the Rebels built a 3-0 lead before the Tide rallied to take it 4-3. This time, the Rebels trailed 3-1, and then rallied to tie at 3, before Auburn’s Plamena Kurteva closed out junior Vief Vlaar at No. 6 singles 7-5, 6-3 to clinch the victory.
With the loss, the Rebels fell to 2-6 overall and 0-2 in the SEC, while Auburn improved to 12-1 and 2-0.
“I am really proud of the team, but it’s bittersweet,” head coach Mark Beyers said. “Obviously you get nothing losing to the No. 5 team 4-3 and the No. 17 team 4-3. There are a lot of things we did well, but at the same time, it’s still two losses. We had some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on. We had match point in the doubles. We’re up 4-3, 40-30 at No. 1 singles serving and didn’t get it. Vief came back from 5-3 down to 5-5 in the first set. We have to start making those opportunities go our way.”
The doubles point came down to a tiebreaker at three after Ole Miss held a match point. After the Rebels won 8-3 at No. 1, Auburn won 8-5 at No. 2. Julia Jones and Iris Verboven rallied from down 6-3 to tie it up at 6 against Jen Pfeifler and Paulina Schippers on court three. Auburn served for it at 7-6, but the Reb duo broke back and held serve to go up 8-7. Jones and Verboven had a match point on Schippers serve, but the Tigers won three straight points to force a tiebreak, which they won 7-2 to clinch the point.
Jones rebounded from a tough loss on Friday and tough doubles point to even the match with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 win over Auburn’s Emily Flickinger at No. 3 singles.
In a battle between two freshmen at No. 2 singles, Tiger Michala Kucharova defeated Rebel Mai El Kamash 6-2, 6-4 to give Auburn the 2-1 lead.
In match that proved to be a difference maker for Auburn, freshman Pleun Burgmans, ranked No. 70 in the nation, was able to close out a three-setter against junior Caroline Rohde-Moe, ranked No. 39, at No. 1 singles. Burgmans won the first set and was up a break early in the second, but Rohde-Moe broke back and eventually took a 5-2 lead. She would serve twice for it, but Burgmans kept it in play and tied it up 5-5. Rohde-Moe broke again and on her third attempt served it out to force a deciding set. Caroline got the early break in the third set, but Burgmans never went away. Rohde-Moe was up 4-3 serving and again Burgmans came up with the goods to even it up. She won the final two games to clinch a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 victory and give Auburn a 3-1 lead.
Sophomore Erin Stephens was battling the flu and did not play in Friday’s match or in the doubles against the Tigers. But, she gave it go in singles and gutted out a 6-3, 6-0 win against Auburn’s Jackie Kasler to put the Rebels within 3-2.
Freshman Marija Milutinovic won a huge second set tiebreaker to close out Auburn’s Pfeifler 6-2, 7-6(7) at No. 5 singles, setting up the final match at six.
The Rebels will be on the road the next two weekends beginning with Georgia and Tennessee next weekend.
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