By Jake SimpsonThe Daily Northwestern
After taking an early lead and pushing the nation’s top team to the brink, Northwestern fell to No. 1 Georgia Tech 4-3 Monday at the Combe Tennis Center.
NU took the doubles point in thrilling fashion and appeared to have the momentum heading into singles. The Yellow Jackets took the momentum right back, jumping out to early leads in four of the six matches. The Cats rallied, but to no avail, as Georgia Tech rode four straight-set singles wins to victory.
“We just didn’t play great tennis,” coach Claire Pollard said.
While the No. 6 Cats (5-2) came up one match short, they gave the Yellow Jackets all they could handle, winning the doubles point and frustrating the visitors early in the dual.
“We took the No. 1 team in the country to 4-3 and we don’t think we played that good of a match,” sophomore Georgia Rose said. “We definitely come away from it feeling good about a lot of things.”
One of those things would have to be determination, which NU showed in spades in the thrilling doubles matches.
NU jumped out to an early lead in all three doubles contests and appeared to be headed for an easy point. Within minutes, however, the Yellow Jackets rallied to take the lead in each match, displaying the toughness and talent that propelled them to the No. 1 ranking.
“You have to give (Georgia Tech) credit,” Pollard said. “They came back after us hard.”
The crowd at the Tennis Center witnessed an exhilerating display of tennis, as every match stayed close throughout.
NU’s No. 3 pair of Nazlie Ghazal and Keri Robinson captured the first match, edging Georgia Tech’s Kirsten Flower and Amanda Craddock 8-6. The Yellow Jackets evened the score when their No. 1 tandem of Whitney McCray and Kristi Miller topped the Cats’ dynamic duo of Rose and senior Alexis Prousis 8-6. The loss was NU’s first at No. 1 doubles all season.
“We started out well, but we gave away too many points down the stretch,” Rose said. “In the end they made us pay.”
The point came down to freshmen Lauren Lui and Samantha Murray’s match against the Yellow Jackets’ Tarryn Rudman and Alison Silverio. Up 4-0, the NU freshmen stumbled, surrendering seven straight games to Georgia Tech. One game from dropping the doubles point, the freshmen staged an amazing comeback – twice.
Lui and Murray took the next three games, leveling the match at seven. With the momentum seemingly in their court, the freshmen faltered again. They dropped the next game and found themselves down two match points.
The doubles point slipping away, Murray and Lui surged once again, saving both match points and winning the game to force a tiebreaker. In the ‘breaker,’ the pair dominated, rolling off four straight points on their way to a 9-8 (7-2) victory that gave NU the early 1-0 lead.
“We just saw that we really needed this point, and we played our hearts out,” Lui said.
In singles, Rose cruised to another easy victory, dropping No. 25 Flower 6-2, 6-2. The sophomore sensation crushed Flower, moving her around the court with powerful groundstrokes and a strong serve.
The Cats will have a chance to build on their performance against No. 10 Baylor on Friday and No. 7 North Carolina on Sunday. Rose was confident they would not fall just short again.
“They better be ready for us,” she said of the Cats’ upcoming foes, “because we’ll come out and show them who’s boss.”
Reach Jake Simpson at [email protected]