Owls stun Cincinnati in comeback victory

The women’s tennis team knocked off Cincinnati, 4-3, in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday night.

The women’s tennis team used a comeback effort to get its first conference victory in 382 days.

The Owls defeated Cincinnati, 4-3, Wednesday in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Temple fell behind in the match 3-0 by losing the doubles point as well as losing the third- and fourth-flight singles matches with scores of 6-0, 6-4 and 6-2, 6-0, respectively.

Coach Steve Mauro said the team was not aggressive in doubles because they didn’t finish points at the net. He said that they need to stop playing defensive in doubles situations, as well.

The Owls then responded with four straight singles wins from freshmen Alina Abdurakhimova (2-6, 7-5, 6-2), Monet Stuckey-Willis, who won in 7-6 (7), 6-1, Yana Khon (7-6, 7-5) and sophomore Anais Nussaume (6-2, 6-3). Khon won the clinching point at the fifth flight to extend the Owls’ match win streak to six.

“Things weren’t looking good when we were down in the match, 3-0,” Mauro said. “We struggled in doubles and then our freshmen took over. They performed like they have all season and really came through for us by winning all of their matches. Anais also provided a huge point for us at the sixth flight in singles.”

Abdurakhimova was ill in the prior meeting between the two teams this season and Mauro said that she refocused after her 6-2 defeat in the first set. After talking with her, Mauro said she came out and worked more for each point.

After struggling all season against conference opponents, compiling a 0-4 record against The American, the Owls put together a team effort to win the match against the Bearcats.

Once again, the freshmen trio of Stuckey-Willis, Khon and Abdurakhimova carried the team, amassing a singles record this season of 36-10, which sits two wins short of the combined singles records of Temple’s other five players this season at 38-27.

With this win, the Owls now have 19 on the season, the most in Temple women’s tennis history. Their last win was their only quality win so far this season, giving them a 1-4 record against conference opponents.

The No. 7-seeded Owls will play in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament Thursday at 4 p.m. EST against No. 2 seed Tulane.

“The girls were resilient today,” Mauro said. “We talked before the match about continuing to fight for each point and they did that for us today. This was the best win of the year for us.”

Dalton Balthaser can be reached at dalton.balthaser@temple.edu or on Twitter @DaltonBalthaser.

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