The LSU women’s tennis team prevailed against Southern Methodist University 4-3 on Saturday at the W.T. “Dub” Robinson Stadium in a back-and-forth contest with sparks flying on both sides.
The Lady Tigers had a shaky start to the afternoon after dropping the doubles point — something coach Julia Sell said they worked on in practice all week — with the duo of senior Kaitlin Burns and freshman Caroline Hudson continuing their struggles from last week.
LSU continued to struggle during the early parts of the singles match, with Burns coming out flat against SMU’s No. 1, Aleksandra Malyarchikova. Only two of LSU’s six players won their first set — sophomore Ella Taylor and Hudson — and Taylor was the only player to win in straight sets.
Burns and sophomore transfer Mary Jeremiah, LSU’s top players, lost in straight sets, leaving the match up to the lower half of the lineup.
LSU junior Ariel Morton responded to that call in a big way. After going down in her first set, Morton battled through cramps to win her match in three sets (0-6, 6-2, 7-5).
The match saw tension boil over as SMU’s Yana Erkeeva had points docked twice because of a taunting violation.
“It felt really good to come back and beat her like I did,” Morton said. “I figured out a game plan after the first set, and I could see her start to fail mentally, so I took advantage of it.”
After Hudson won her match (6-4, 2-6, 6-3), the contest was left in senior Ebie Wilson’s hands.
“If you want anyone playing last for the win, it’s Ebie,” Sell said. “She understands how to win, she knows what works for her and she fights like crazy.”
Wilson, who is undefeated in dual-match play this season, eventually outlasted SMU sophomore Elena Fayner in the third set, going on to win the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
LSU showcased its superior fitness throughout the day, as it won every match that went to three sets.
Morton cited the team’s improved fitness as a critical factor in the match as many of the SMU players seemed tired toward the end of their matches.
“We got affirmation that what we’ve been working on is what we need to do,” Sell said. “On paper, [SMU’s] a much more talented and experienced team than we are, but we out-competed them ... and that’s what you have to do to win matches.”