EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Clinching the No. 6 seed in the 2022 Ohio Valley Conference Tennis Championship following consecutive league victories to close the regular season, the University of Tennessee at Martin tennis team prepares for their first postseason venture in three years on Friday morning, competing in the Quarterfinal round versus third-seed Belmont at a neutral site in Evansville, Indiana. First serve between the Skyhawks and the Bruins is scheduled for 10:00 am
UTM is no stranger to embarking on deep postseason runs as the No. 6 seeded team in this tournament, advancing all the way to the OVC title match in their last appearance after winning back-to-back days as the underdog in 2019. Outlasting No . 3 Murray State and No. 2 Jacksonville State by a combined score of 8-6 on their way to the championship match, the Skyhawks were eventually bested by top-seed Austin Peay, who coincidentally is the No. 1 seed in the 2022 version of the tourney as was the case three years back.
Before thinking too far ahead about Sunday’s climactic event, UT Martin must first focus on a revenge mission against Belmont, one of the orange and blue’s four conference losses over the past month to counter three league wins. Facing the eventual top-three seeds in consecutive nature just over two weeks ago, the Skyhawks’ trip to Nashville served as the midway point of that grueling stretch in a 5-2 decision for the Bruins on April 10th.
Sina Albersmeier and Jule Streif began that contest on a high note for UTM via a doubles W by a 6-3 score, although Belmont would go on to claim the next two tag-team sets to steal the two-on-two point outright. The Skyhawks would go on to win four more doubles series over their final three appearances post-Nashville, including two each against both No. 5 seed Murray State and Tennessee State.
Lia Espinal and Mizuki Sakurai gave UT Martin a pair of points in singles play once the second half of the Belmont match commenced, a 6-2 6-1 result for the former out of the No. 4 slot in the lineup next to a 6-0 6-4 win by the latter at the No. 6 position.
The Skyhawks grabbed a total of 53 one-on-one victories throughout their 19 matches since January, going on to win nine more singles series over their final two outings with MSU and TSU. Beating the Racers and Tigers by an added margin of 11-3 to bring them towards the conference tournament on a wave of momentum, head coach Caitlyn Williams‘squad will move on to Saturday’s semifinal round should they succeed in dealing the Bruins a dose of payback on Friday in Evansville.
Behind a 5-2 record against OVC opponents, Belmont rides a similar stream of momentum into the league’s opening round with a three-game winning streak that began in the aforementioned decision against the Skyhawks. Since falling to Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri in back-to-back outings against the eventual top two seeds, the Bruins have downed UTM, SIUE, and Eastern Illinois to push their overall record to 12-7.
If UT Martin can pull off the 6-over-3 upset in the first round from the Hoosier State, second-seeded SEMO will be waiting in the wings for the semifinal bracket on Saturday.