May 25, 2012
ATHENS, GA. – With the season on the line, and for Georgia Tech senior Jillian O’Neill, her collegiate career, O’Neill and sophomore Alex Anghelescu won the final five games of the third set to defeat Maryland’s 33rd-ranked pair of Ana Belzunce and Welma Luus 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, Thursday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
It was the ninth win over a ranked opponent for O’Neill and Anghelescu, currently ranked No. 23, this spring, as the pair improved to 15-12 on the year.
“It was one of those things, we finally figured out some things in the final hour, the final minute really,” head coach Bryan Shelton said. “We went to the lob on the return serve and it really opened up the court for us. Then we changed our position on second serve returns to get a little bit further inside the baseline to take away a little of their time. A couple of those little adjustments really paid off. Mentally, we just stayed in there and continuing to fight, basically fighting for our lives just to stay alive. I give our team a lot of credit for hanging in there and making the adjustments and executing in the end.”
Both the Yellow Jackets and Terrapins earned one early break and held serve twice to knot the first set 3-3. Tech quickly earned the break back and Anghelescu held her serve to put GT up 5-3 in the first. The Yellow Jackets tallied another break to win the first set 6-3.
The Terps tandem wasn’t willing to give in and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set with two break points. Tech earned its own break to get on the board, but a Maryland break and hold put the Terrapins up 5-1 in the second. Belzunce and Luus finished off the set with a 6-3 win to force a decisive third set.
O’Neill and Anghelescu downed the Terps’ duo 8-6 to clinch the doubles point in an ACC regular season match in College Park on March 23.When the two teams met not quite a month later in an ACC Championships first round dual, the match was tied 3-3 when the doubles point was clinched by Tech.
The Terrapin pair, determined to earn their win over the Jackets, again earned two early breaks to take a 3-0 lead in the third set. Georgia Tech briefly stopped Maryland’s run with a break and service hold to pull within 3-2. Maryland earned a service hold and grabbed a break point to go up 5-2 and nearly close out the match.
Then the Yellow Jackets took over.
Tech posted its own service break to get back to 3-5 and O’Neill held her serve to get the Jackets within 4-5. Maryland fell behind love-30, but posted its own mini-rally to get to match point before the Tech fight leveled the match at 5-5.
Anghelescu was able to hold serve giving GT the lead in the match for the first time since winning the first set. The Tech pair was able to earn one final break and claim a 7-5 third set win and punch its ticket to the NCAA Doubles Sweet 16.
“We got a little more aggressive mentally,” Shelton said. “I think Alex was serving kind of defensively the first set and a half, then we got our backs up against the wall and had nothing to lose once we got down in the score. I think that prompted both Alex and Jill to be a little more aggressive in how they approached their serve and consequentially we held our serve easier. Then we established some momentum. All the sudden we have the momentum and we just ran with it. The last four or five games, we won most of the points. I think they were panicking on their side. When the momentum switches like that, and you feel like you don’t know what to do to reverse it, that’s a terrible feeling and I’m sure that’s how Maryland felt at the end of that match.”
The Yellow Jackets will take on Pepperdine’s 32nd-ranked team of Khunpak Issara and Lorraine Guillermo on Friday with the winner earning All-America status. The match is slated to begin at 2 p.m. in Athens.
Fans are encouraged to follow Georgia Tech women’s tennis on Twitter, @GT_WTEN, and like the Yellow Jackets on Facebook, GTWomensTennis, for an inside look at the program.
— RamblinWreck.com —