BRISTOL, Tenn. – Looking to advance to its second Atlantic Sun Championship semifinal in its second conference tournament appearance, the No. 5 seed FGCU women’s tennis team (11-7, 4-4 A-Sun) fell to No. 4 seed Stetson, 4-3, at the Bristol Country Club on Friday afternoon.
The dual match was originally scheduled to be played in Johnson City, Tenn. at ETSU, but as a result of in climate weather forecasts the match was moved to a different location.
The quarterfinal matchup between FGCU and Stetson was a rematch of the April 13 dual match that the Hatters won 5-2 and had the Eagles out for revenge with a postseason victory and a spot in the A-Sun semifinals on the line.
“Today was a hard way to finish the season as we had some incredible performances from our team,” said head coach Jennifer Gabou. “Sarah played so clean and dominated while Elizabeth and Morgan laid their hearts on the line. We did not compete very well at some spots and hopefully this will be a motivator for them over the summer.”
FGCU came out strong from the start by seizing the doubles point, which they were unable to do in the earlier meeting, to take a 1-0 lead over Stetson. In the No. 2 doubles spot, junior Bettina Botha (Cape Town, South Africa/De Kuilen HS) and All-Freshman team selection Johanna Sterkel (Schwtzingen, Germany/Carl-Theodor-Schule HS) won 8-3 to bring the Eagles closer to the doubles point. To secure the doubles point for the Green and Blue, the duo of All-Freshman teamer Elizabeth Means (Wesley Chapel, Fla./Wiregrass Ranch HS) and All-Atlantic Sun second teamer Sarah Means (Wesley Chapel, Fla./Wiregrass Ranch HS) came out with an 8-5 doubles triumph.
Moving to the single courts and just three wins away from clinching the dual match victory, Stetson took the first two singles matches to jump out front in the dual match, 2-1. FGCU looked to put the pressure on Stetson by cranking up the intensity and Sarah Means started it off with a 6-4, 6-4 victory in straight sets to knot up the dual match.
Elizabeth Means followed suit of her sister by taking her singles match as well, except in comeback fashion. After dropping the first set 6-2, Means stormed back to win the next two sets 6-2, 6-3 to record the singles victory, putting FGCU on top 3-2 and one victory away from advancing to the semifinal round.
With the Hatters having taken the next match to tie the dual match at 3-3 with one singles match still ongoing, it was up to senior Morgan Bechtel (Toledo, Ohio/St. Ursula Academy) in the No. 5 singles position to secure the victory for the Green and Blue. Bechtel put up a fight in the final match of her FGCU career, but fell 7-5, 6-3, leading to a 4-3 victory for Stetson.
With the addition of Stetson’s quarterfinal victory over FGCU, the Hatters now lead the all-time series against the Eagles 5-1, with Stetson having won two straight in the series.
“We are a young team with one senior and coming off of our first winning season,” Gabou stated. “This team has a bright future if they continue to learn.”
Stetson 4, FGCU 3
Order of Finish: (2, 3, 1, 4, 6, 5)
1. Sarah Means (FGCU) def. Andrea Crespo (STET) – 6-4, 6-4
2. Sara Lazarevic (STET) def. Gyanna Mandic (FGCU) – 6-3, 6-0
3. Diana Bukajeva (STET) def. Johanna Sterkel (FGCU) – 6-2, 6-0
4. Elizabeth Means (FGCU def. Lindsey Cable (STET) – 2-6, 6-2, 6-3
5. Jen Miller (STET) def. Morgan Bechtel (FGCU) – 7-5, 6-3
6. Eveline Lepinay (STET) def. Bettina Botha (FGCU) – 6-4, 6-2
Order of Finish: (1, 2, 3)
1. Diana Bukajeva/Jen Miller (STET) def. Gyanna Mandic/Morgan Bechtel (FGCU) – 8-2
2. Johanna Sterkel/Bettina Botha (FGCU) def. Lindsey Cable/Eveline Lepinay (STET) – 8-3
3. Elizabeth Means/Sarah Means (FGCU) def. MB StaufferMacDowell/Sara Lazarevic (STET) – 8-5