Early lead evaporates as tennis team falls to Oregon

With the doubles point in hand, the USF women’s tennis team looked to be in control of Wednesday’s match with Oregon. Nothing could have been further from the truth as the Bulls (5-12) watched their lead slip away, and the Ducks took the match 6-1.

“We were inconsistent with our execution,” USF coach Sherry Bedingfield said. “Sort of what happens then is we lose our confidence, and then when we have opportunities we’re just not executing. That’s the disease we have right now. We lose our confidence and in the crunch time we miss our opportunities.”

USF wrestled away the doubles point by getting victories at No. 2 from Claudia Nieto and Jennifer Sinclair and No. 3 from Ashlee Callahan and Jackie Spicijaric.

With a 1-0 cushion heading into singles play, the Bulls seemed to have the upper hand and used that momentum to establish first-set leads in four of the six singles contests.

But the Ducks (9-9) fired back, getting effective play from No. 2 Monika Gieczys and No. 4 Davina Mendiburu, both of whom breezed to easy victories to put Oregon up 2-1.

The Bulls were dealt a pair of tough blows when Spicijaric and Natalie Schwartz each dropped tight first sets.Spicijaric and Vickie Gunnarsson took their match at No. 5 into a tiebreaker, which Gunnarsson won 7-4, en route to a 7-6, 6-1 triumph.

Schwartz held a 5-3 lead against Daria Panova, but watched as the Ducks’ No. 1 whittled away the margin. Unforced errors proved to be Schwartz’s undoing, as she committed a pair in the final game to give the set to Panova 7-5. Schwartz withered from there as Panova shut her out in the second set.

“Maybe we all just let up a little,” Schwartz said. “Maybe we thought we were going to win because we had the doubles, but it’s so much harder than that.”

Jennifer Sinclair displayed ample amount of heart for the embattled Bulls. Playing at No. 3, Sinclair claimed the first set 6-3 against Oregon’s Janice Nyland. Nyland avenged her first set failures by defeating Sinclair 6-4 in the second. With the Ducks leading 5-1, thereby assuring the Bulls of defeat, Sinclair and Nyland proceeded to have a 50-minute duel for the third and decisive set. Sinclair rallied from a 3-1 hole to take the advantage at 4-3, but the mental and physical fatigue proved to be too much as Nyland took the set (7-5) and the match.

“You should never give up, no matter if the team has already lost the match,” Sinclair said. “It helps you in the long run if you keep fighting.”