Women’s Tennis Falls to Iowa, 4-3, in Big Ten Tournament Heartbreaker

Box Score IOWA CITY, Iowa – The No. 13-seed Michigan State women’s tennis team nearly pulled out the victory at multiple points Wednesday afternoon, but could not finish off 12th-seeded Iowa in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament, as the host Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans, 4 -3, at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.

A close doubles action led right into six nail-biting singles matches, as two doubles matches went to tiebreaker while four singles courts ended up needing all three sets to decide winners.

The doubles point went down to the wire, as the Spartans nearly closed out the Hawkeyes twice in an attempt to grab a lead, but Iowa fought back in both to take the 1-0 edge. The No. 2 MSU pairing of senior Nicole Stephens and sophomore Ayshe Can was able to win their showdown with Marisa Schmidt and Vipasha Mehra, pulling away for the 6-3 victory, while both the No. 1 and No. 3 Spartan pairings fought back to force tiebreakers after early deficits.

The top pairing of senior Maja Pietrowicz and graduate student Mary Lewis were able to battle from down 3-5 to force the tiebreaker at 6-6, even taking a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaking set before Samantha Mannix and Samantha Gillas escaped with the 7-6 (7-5) win to tie up doubles action.

Coming down to the No. 3 doubles matchup of freshman Charlotte Gisclon and junior Dagmar Zdrubecka against Barbora Pokorna and Michelle Bacalla, the Spartan pairing also erased an early Iowa lead to send the match to a 6-6 tiebreaker, where Gisclon and Zdrubecka were up 5-4. Unfortunately, the Hawkeye duo grabbed the next three tiebreaker points to claim the 7-6 (7-5) victory and hand Iowa the doubles point.

The Spartans responded by taking the first two singles matches to finish, as Stephens and fellow senior Lauren Lemonds helped put MSU ahead, 2-1. Lemonds won three-straight points to take the first set over Gillas after trailing 3-4, and then closed out the No. 5 Hawkeye player in the second set to win via a 6-4, 6-4 score. For Stephens, she also won the final three points of her opening set against Mehra on the No. 4 singles court before winning the second set to secure a 6-4, 6-4 victory as well.

Pokorna got the Hawkeyes a win on the second singles court with a comeback effort after Can took the opening set in convincing fashion. Pokorna battled from behind in the second and third sets to overcome the No. 2 Spartan player and notch a 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 win.

Iowa got another singles win in the No. 6 spot to put itself on the edge of clinching at 3-2, as Bacalla also rallied from a slow start to knock off Gisclon in three sets, 6-7 (5-7), 6 -4, 6-1.

In her final match wearing the Green and White, Lewis was able to bounce back after dropping the first set via tiebreaker, winning the tiebreaker in the second set and then taking the third set convincingly to pick up a 6-7 (3-7) , 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 victory over Schmidt on the top singles court to even the team score at 3-3.

Down to the No. 3 singles position, Pietrowicz took the first set via tiebreaker and nearly fought her way back from a 4-0 hole in the second set, but Mannix finished the Spartan off in the second set and then captured a back-and -forth third set to claim the 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 6-4 victory that ended MSU’s season.

Iowa now holds a 33-17 edge in the all-time series with MSU.

The Spartans end the campaign at 9-14. For the Hawkeyes, they move to 7-16 and advance to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, facing No. 5-seed Illinois at 6 pm CT on Thursday, April 28.

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