Temple won its first conference match on Saturday in a narrow 4-3 victory against Connecticut at the Hamlin Tennis Courts on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
With the victory, the Owls (6-4, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) rebounded after Tuesday’s loss to Georgetown University.
Temple had a tough start to the match with the top doubles combination of junior Alina Abdurakhimova and senior Dina Karina falling 6-0. Juniors Yana Khon and Monet Stuckey-Willis responded in the second position by winning 7-6 (3). In the final doubles matchup, seniors Anais Nussaume and Mariana Bedon lost 7-5.
“It was great that they got the win,” Mauro said of Khon and Stuckey-Willis. “I think they’ve been playing best out of all of our doubles teams and their win was big. But doubles is a work in progress so we need to improve and get better in doubles if we want to do well in conference this year.”
In singles, Abdurakhimova was victorious in the Owls’ top position for the eighth time in 10 matches. She cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win.
Though Abdurakhimova began playing in the top position to fill in for injured graduate student Galina Chernykh, Mauro said he believes that Abdurakhimova has earned the top spot and would still be No. 1 if Chernykh were available.
“Galina is a great player and still would be in the top two or three,” Mauro said. But Alina is doing great, she’s having a great season and I’m really happy with her effort.”
In the second position, Stuckey-Willis fell by a score of 6-2, 6-3. The Owls won their next three singles matches to clinch the victory.
Khon outlasted UConn’s third singles player, winning the three-set match 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Karina followed in the fourth spot with a close 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory.
Nussaume’s match in the fifth position would decide the contest. She overcame a loss in the first set to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 and clinch the Owls’ victory.
“It shows a lot about her determination,” Mauro said. “We try to get our girls prepared to come back hard after losing the first set but it’s not easy. So it was great that she was able to pull that off and get the win.
“There were a lot of people watching the match too,” Mauro added. “And to have everyone watching her win in that fashion, everyone was really happy with her performance and the team’s.”
Freshman Cecilia Castelli saw rare action on Saturday in the sixth position. Mauro said the Owls’ usual No. 6 player, Bedon, had knee discomfort and could only play doubles on Saturday. Castelli filled in and lost by a score of 6-2, 6-4.
After getting a taste of conference play, the Owls will now face three non-conference opponents at home starting on Friday against James Madison University.
The Owls will then travel to Tulsa on March 5 in their next conference match. Mauro said beating UConn was important so the team could gain confidence before the slate of non-conference matches.
“Connecticut is a good team and if we can beat them I think we should do well this season against other conference opponents,” he said.
Graham Foley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @graham_foley3. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.