published Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Samford drops UTC in SoCon women's tennis

UTC's Kaylene Chadwell, left, and Alexa Flynn defeat Samford's Kristin Lewis and Emily Mallory 8-5, in a No. 1 doubles match Friday at the Champions Club.
UTC's Kaylene Chadwell, left, and Alexa Flynn defeat Samford's Kristin Lewis and Emily Mallory 8-5, in a No. 1 doubles match Friday at the Champions Club.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SOCON SEMIFINALS

SAMFORD 4, UTC WOMEN 0

Doubles (1 team point): Alexa Flynn/Kaylene Chadwell (UTC) def. Emily Mallory/Kristin Lewis, 8-5; Yasmeen Ebada/Carita Moolman (S) def. Kayla Jones/Katie Polk, 9-8 (7-4); Stephanie N'tcha/Jessica Northcutt (S) def. Claire Mulyadi/Kelsey Coots, 8-2.

Singles: N'tcha (S) def. Jones, 6-2, 6-3; Lewis (S) vs. Chadwell, 7-6 (8-6), 4-2, DNF; Ebada (S) def. Flynn, 6-4, 6-1; Northcutt (S) vs. Coots, 4-6, 5-4, DNF; Mallory (S) def. Mulyadi, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1; Lauren Caballero (S) vs. Polk, 6-1, 1-6, 1-2, DNF

Records: Samford 20-2; UTC 18-5

Every key point that was up for grabs Friday afternoon, the Samford women's tennis team picked it up against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. And in a match that was expected to be close, that made all the difference.

The second-seeded Lady Bulldogs rallied to claim the point in doubles, then went on to take three singles matches and claim a 4-0 victory over the No. 3 seed Mocs in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament at the Champions Club.

Samford (20-2), ranked 73rd nationally, will face fourth-seeded Elon (14-8), which upset top-seeded Furman 4-3 in the other semifinal, today at 2 for the championship.

UTC ended its season at 18-5 for the second straight year -- although coach Jeff Clark called this team "much better." The Mocs' third-place finish in regular-season play tied for the program's best finish since 2000, and their two losses were 4-3 at Furman and Samford, the latter a week ago today.

"Having just played them six days ago, we felt if we could turn the doubles that today could be our day," Clark said. "We positioned ourselves well to win, but their girls battled. We didn't give them anything; they earned it. Today just bounced their way."

Samford's Stephanie N'tcha and Jessica Northcutt won at No. 3 doubles, but the Mocs got even with a win from Alexa Flynn and Kaylene Chadwell at No. 1. The Mocs' Kayla Jones and Katie Polk held a 7-4 advantage in the No. 2 doubles match, but Yasmeen Ebada and Carita Moolman rallied to win in a tiebreaker and take the ever-important first team point of the match.

"I think that took the wind out of our sails -- not consciously, but we could almost taste that doubles point and they snatched it from us and really lifted them," Clark said.

N'tcha and Ebada then had singles victories before Emily Mallory pulled out a 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 win over Claire Mulyadi to seal the match.

UTC held leads in two of the three matches that didn't finish.

"The 4-0 score doesn't reflect how close this match was," Clark said. "We battled for three and a half hours and looked good at No. 4 and No. 6 [singles]. We had a set point at No. 5, and if we win that first set, who knows? Maybe that gives us a lift."

The Mocs return five of their top six players headed into next season, with Flynn being the only player graduating. The program is high on Baylor School senior Samantha Caswell, who has signed on for next season.

Flynn finished with 75 wins in both singles and doubles in her career and was a part of 63 team victories.

"There wasn't one position we didn't fight at," she said. "It wasn't for a lack of effort and energy; Samford was just good today. We played well, and I'm disappointed, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. It's been the best year since I've been here; we were a really good team, and they'll be good next year."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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