Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Walt Beazley)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - The University of Arkansas women's tennis team dropped its first ever conference meeting with Missouri, falling 5-2 at Billingsley Tennis Center. The loss dropped Arkansas to 6-9 (1-4 SEC), while Missouri improved to 7-5 (1-4 SEC).
"Today was such a tough match to lose," Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty said. "I thought our effort was extremely good. Credit to Missouri for winning those long three sets matches that were the difference in the end."
In doubles play, the duo of Kimberley-Ann Surin and Ana Lorena Belmar Hernandez got Arkansas off to a strong start, recording a convincing 8-2 victory. Shortly after, Claudine Paulson and Sarah McLean were unable to complete a late rally, and fell to the Tigers' Gaytan-Leach/Clark 8-4. The doubles point came down to the duo of Yang Pang and Brittany Huxley at No. 2, who had a back-and-forth battle with MU's No. 68 Stuhlmann and Christensen. The match come down to a tiebreak, but Missouri took it 9-8 (7-4) and won the doubles point.
In singles, Missouri struck first, winning a matchup of ranked players at No. 1 singles. Arkansas' No. 68 Pang fell in straight sets to Missouri's No. 114 Cierra Gaytan-Leach 6-0, 6-4. The Tigers also won at No. 5, as Huxley fell 6-3, 6-4 to Alex Clark, and put Missouri ahead 3-0.
Arkansas' lone senior, Paulson got the Razorbacks first point of the day by winning her fifth straight conference singles match. Paulson won 6-3, 7-6 (3) over Rachel Stuhlmann to cut the Tigers lead to 3-1. After Paulson's victory, the other three matches all went to a third set.
The Tigers were able to persevere late in the match, earning the victory. Christensen clinched the victory at No. 3, defeating McLean 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. Surin also dropped her match shortly after, falling to Elisha Gabb 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The final match of the day was Belmar Hernandez, playing three sets at No. 6 singles. She earned a victory 7-6, 2-6, 6-3. Paulson and Belmar Hernandez recorded the two victories for Arkansas, and Coach Hegarty was especially impressed by the stellar play of Paulson.
"Claudine has been giving us a lot," Hegarty said. "She has had a really good career for us, and this has been an extra special season. She wants to end her career on a high note, and has been very committed to working hard. It's been amazing to watch."
The Razorbacks are back in action on Sunday, hosting another match at Billingsley Tennis Center. Arkansas will face No. 3 Texas A&M at 1 p.m.
Missouri 5, Arkansas 2
Complete Singles Results
1. No. 114 Cierra Gaytan - Leach (MU) def. No. 68 Yang Pang (ARK) 6-0, 6-4
2. No. 93 Claudine Paulson (ARK) def. Rachel Stuhlmann (MU) 6-3, 7-6 (3)
3. Maria Christensen (MU) def. Sarah McLean (ARK) 4-6, 6-1, 6-1
4. Elisha Gabb (MU) def. Kimberley - Ann Surin (ARK) 1-6, 6-4, 6-4
5. Alex Clark (MU) def. Brittany Huxley (ARK) 6-3, 6-4
6. Ana Lorena Belmar Hernandez (ARK) def. Madison Rhyner (MU) 7-6, 2-6, 6-3
Complete Doubles Results
1. Cierra Gaytan-Leach/Alex Clark (MU) def. Claudine Paulson/ Sarah McLean (ARK) 8-4
2. No. 68 Rachel Stuhlman/Maria Christensen (MU) def. Brittany Huxley/Yang Pang (ARK) 9-8 (4)
3. Kimberley - Ann Surin/Ana Lorena Belmar (ARK) def. Hernandez/Elisha Gabb/Madison Rhyner (MU) 8-2