April 23, 2011
By Zach Mendelson, Seminoles.com
CARY, N.C. - After a third straight day of prolonged rain delays, the red-hot Florida State women’s tennis team (15-7, 10-4) once again found their fight as they defeated top-seeded, No. 3 Duke (22-4, 11-2) at the Cary Tennis Center. The Seminoles, who began the tournament as the five seed and one of seven ACC teams ranked inside the ITA’s top 20, will now advance to the ACC Championship for just the second time in program history. The Seminoles are riding a season best eight match winning streak and will face two-seed, No. 5 North Carolina (22-5, 11-2) tomorrow, Sunday, April 24 for a shot at the ACC Championship crown.
The Seminoles advance to the ACC Championship Final for the first time since 1994 where they fell short against the Blue Devils. Duke came into today’s semifinal match having lost only one conference match all season, when they fell to Florida State 4-2 last Sunday in Tallahassee. Defeating Duke for a second time this season presented a very tall order for the Seminoles as the talented Blue Devils have all six players ranked among the top 90 by the ITA.
“The talent level in our league is so good and there is so much depth across the board,” said head coach Jennifer Hyde. “It sometimes boils down to which team is more willing to battle through and this team has had that willingness intact since we started on this journey. I am so pleased to see the girls put in so much work and finally put themselves in a position to win a title. The belief is running deep, and there is not one person on our roster who knows a limit yet. We are still climbing. We are really excited to get back out here tomorrow and put ourselves in position to win a title.”
Undaunted by their opponent, the Seminoles came right out of the gates swinging as senior Katie Rybakova (Coral Springs, Florida) and sophomore Amy Sargeant (Walsall, England) were the first ‘Noles to win on the afternoon defeating Duke’s Mary Clayton and Monica Gorny 8-4 on court three.
The Blue Devils were quick to respond as their top tandem, No. 50 Rachael Kahan and Ellah Nze won 8-4 over senior Federica Suess (Ludwigshafen, Germany) and Noemie Scharle (Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg) on court one. Knowing how critical the doubles point can be the Seminoles fought right back as the No. 81 duo of sophomore Francesca Segarelli (Rome, Italy) and freshman Ruth Seaborne (London, England) upset the Blue Devils No. 51 tandem Nadine Fahoum and Hanna Mar 8-4 to give the Florida State the 1-0 lead heading into singles.
“We have talked all year about the importance of the doubles point,” said Hyde. “During the last couple of matches we haven’t quite played as well in doubles, but today the girls did a great job of turning that around. The doubles made all the difference in the world on this day. We know in these bigger matches that the doubles point is certainly helpful and I definitely think that got us started off on the right foot today.”
Once singles began the momentum quickly turned back towards the Blue Devils favor as they won on courts five and six to take a 2-1 lead. Coming off the first match clinching performance of her career against Virginia the previous day, talented freshman Seaborne fought back and forth with Duke’s No. 63 Elizabeth Plotkin and eventually pulled out the upset victory 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 on court four to tie the match at 2-2.
The Blue Devils would then retake the lead 3-2 as All-ACC sophomore Francesca Segarelli fell to Duke’s No. 80 Ellah Nze 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 on court two. With the match coming down to third set battles on courts one and three, the momentum began to turn as No. 35 Rybakova with her back against the wall fought back from match point to defeat No. 36 Nadine Fahoum 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) on court one. With the 102nd win of her career ties former teammates Lauren Macfarlane and Jessica Sucupria for second place in all-time singles wins in the Seminole record books.
“It was a really close match, my opponent was a very competitive player and I am really glad that I could pull it off and get through a few mental lapses,” said Rybakova. “It’s just an amazing feeling. I keep going to back to it and thinking wow, it was so close, point for point and I am just so glad it worked out in my favor to get that final point. I believed Noemie full-heartedly just as I believe in everyone and it was just a incredible moment.”
With all the momentum back on their side, Florida State quickly picked up the fourth and final point needed as sophomore, No. 56 Noemie Scharle's defeated No. 18 Reke Zsilinska 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) on court three to seal the victory. The win marks the Seminoles eighth straight victory, all of them coming against conference opponents including four victories over top ten opponent’s during that stretch. Quite the feat considering the ACC is widely regarded the deepest and most talented conference in the nation.
“I was so exhausted from the match I didn’t even realize at first that I had won,” said Scharle. “I am so happy for everybody. Katie was fighting next to me and I was more nervous for her than myself. I felt really confident. I had a little trouble in the second set but after that I knew it was coming down to me so I just pulled myself together, hung in the match and finally was able to finish it.”
While Florida State has a ton of momentum from their winning streak the past few weeks, it’s not the streak but an inner belief in themselves that has gotten them this far.
“I don’t feel like we are riding a high from this winning streak as much as we are full of confidence through the streak. That confidence and belief is priceless right now, and we will most definitely be taking those things into our final tomorrow,’ Hyde said. “I think there is a very big difference in that. A high is temporary but belief is permanent and this team believes there is no limit for them this year and that very clearly showed again today in their fight and in their play to beat a very good Duke team for a second time in a week."
The Seminoles are set for a 11 a.m. match time against No. 2 seed North Carolina tomorrow, Sunday, April 23 at the Cary Tennis Center. Fans can follow the match live at Seminoles.com, as well as the women’s tennis page on facebook and on twitter at FSU_WTENNIS.
1. #35 Katie Rybakova (FSU) def. #36 Nadine Fahoum (Duke) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7)
2. #88 Ellah Nze (Duke) def. Francesca Segarelli (FSU) 4-6, 6-1, 6-3
3. #56 Noemie Scharle (FSU) vs. #18 Reka Zsilinska (Duke) 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
4. Ruth Seaborne (FSU) def. #63 Elizabeth Plotkin (Duke) 5-7, 6-4, 6-3
5. #82 Rachel Kahan (Duke) def. Federica Suess (FSU) 6-0, 6-1
6. #78 Mary Clayton (Duke) def. Amy Sargeant (FSU) 6-3, 6-1
Order to finish: - 5, 6, 4, 2, 1, 3*
1. #50 Kahan/Nze (Duke) def. Scharle/Suess (FSU) 8-4
2. #81 Segarelli/Seaborne (FSU) def. #51 Fahoum/Mar (Duke) 8-4
3. Sargeant/Rybakova (FSU) def. Clayton/Gorny (Duke) 8-4
Order to finish: 3, 1, 2*