Seminoles too tough for hobbled Bulls

They almost did it. They almost won the doubles point and they almost beat FSU. In the end though, it was the same old story for the USF women’s tennis team as it fell to the Seminoles, 4-3.

With Fabiana Taverna and Luisa Obando sitting out of their fourth straight match due to injuries, the Bulls found themselves in an all-too-familiar position: needing to win both doubles matches or all of the singles matches to come out of the match with a victory.

USF started out on top as its No. 1 doubles team of Neyssa Etienne and Gabriela Duch downed the No. 8 doubles team in the nation, Mihaela Moldovan and Lindsay Deason. The doubles team won 8-1 in under 45 minutes.

“We should get a ranking now,” Etienne said. “This win will give us confidence (going into Duke) that we’re up there with them. And they better be ready for us.”

The upset win left the responsibility of earning the point on the shoulders of USF’s freshmen team of Courtney Vernon and Liz Cruz. Up 7-4 and within one point of victory, Cruz and Vernon dropped four of five matches, allowing the Seminoles to tie the score and force the match into a seven-point tiebreak. FSU secured the win, holding the Bulls to just two points and taking the doubles point back.

“It’s very frustrating, you know, I mean everybody has a bad day,” Etienne said. “(Last match), Gabi felt like it was her fault. Today, Courtney feels like it’s her fault. But with just four players, it puts a lot of pressure on you.”

USF went into the singles matches trailing 3-0, and needed to win all four matches in order to send the Seminoles packing.

In a matter of 90 minutes, the No. 2, 3 and 4 players blanked the Seminoles, leaving the final point up to Vernon at the No. 1 position. Vernon — who is new to the No. 1 spot — held her game strong as she took the country’s No. 16 singles player — FSU senior Michaela Moldovan — to a tie-breaking match for the first set. Vernon came out on top and led the match 1-0 before falling to Moldovan in the following two sets.

“Courtney’s got a great game. She needs to learn how to harness her power and she’s young. (Moldovan) has probably been in that situation many times before; and Courtney never has, so I mean you learn,” coach Gigi Fernandez said. “It’s just hard because I know we’re a better team than they are.”