Friday, May 14, 2010

Illini women pull off marathon match over OSU

April 18, 2010
There was a cold wind howling through the sunshine as the large crowd huddled under blankets and coats, but no one thought about leaving as the Illinois and Ohio State women battled for over five hours at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Center. 

As crucial as they were to the ending, the majority of the matches seemed to be such a small part of the picture.  The Buckeyes won the doubles point in a strange setup with Ohio State dominating at #1 and #2 and the Illini in charge at #3.  It would be the last point the Buckeyes would see for a while.

Chelcie Abajian was first on the board for Illinois, but Breanne Smutko would follow quickly for their team's 2-1 lead.  Then it was Leigh Finneagan bringing it to 3-1 and it looked like the home team had it in the bag.  No one imagined that we were still over two hours from an ending.

The Buckeyes answered back with Paloma Escobedo's win over Marisa Lambropoulos, which was a long 6-2,6-2. Then Kelsey Haviland pulled out a three-setter and we were in a tie at 3-3.  While all the courts were finishing their matches, Court 1 was far from it.  Kirsten Flower had pulled out a very long 7-5 in the first and Megan Fudge was battling her at 4-4 in the second.  The match would continue at that pace for nearly four hours of incredible tennis.  Both players kept the crowd on the edge of their seat as they managed reached shots that looked impossible -- especially in the strong wind.

As there always is whenever Ohio State and Illinois get together in any sport, the crowd got a bit rambunctious at times, even bringing the referee out.  But as the match went on into overtime, things changed.  When Kirsten Flower began to cramp at 3-3 in the third set tiebreaker, everyone cheered when she got back up.  It was finally finished off by Megan Fudge, 5-7,6-4,7-6(6). 

During the match, an Illini fan next to me said (of a point won by the Buckeyes), "This is a great point for Big Ten tennis."  I couldn't agree more.

No. 26 Illinois 4, No. 33 Ohio State 3

Megan Fudge (ILL) defeated Kirsten Flower (OSU), 5-7,6-4,7-6(6)
Paloma Escobedo (OSU) defeated Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL), 6-2,6-2
Kelsey Haviland (OSU) defeated Rachael White (ILL), 6-1,4-6,6-3
Leigh Finnegan (ILL) defeated Gabby Steele (OSU), 6-2,6-3
Breanne Smutko (ILL) defeated Christina Keesey (OSU), 6-3,6-3
Chelcie Abajian (ILL) defeated Fidan Manashirova (OSU), 6-1,6-1
Kelsey Haviland/Cami Hubbs (OSU) defeated Chelcie Abajian/Rachael White (ILL), 8-4
Paloma Escobedo/Christina Keesey (OSU) defeated Leigh Finnegan/Megan Fudge (ILL), 8-3
Marisa Lambropoulos/Breanne Smutko (ILL) defeated Gabby Steele/Fidan Manashirova (OSU), 8-6
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