Oregon Drops Fresno State 4-2 in NCAA Tournament First Round
May 13, 2005
STANFORD, Calif. - With 78 career victories in singles and 84 more in doubles, senior Lucia Tallo has many fond memories of the time she spent at Fresno State. Unfortunately, Friday's NCAA Tournament match was not one of them.
Dominika Dieskova's 6-4, 6-4 victory over Tallo at No. 2 singles clinched a 4-2 win for Oregon over the Bulldogs in a first round match at the Taube Family Tennis Center on the campus of Stanford. The loss ends Fresno State's season while the Ducks (17-7) move into the second round, where they will most likely play host and top-seeded Stanford on Saturday at noon.
The Cardinal, the reigning national champion who have won 50 consecutive matches, play Army on Friday afternoon.
Tallo, who ranks fifth on the program's all-time singles wins list, came up just short in a match that was tighter than the final score indicated. Both sets featured several deuce games, including when Tallo was serving to stay in it at 4-5. After a Tallo error set up Dieskova's third match point, Dieskova clinched the win with a running crosscourt forehand passing shot that landed just inside the line, out of Tallo's reach.
Dieskova's win came at just the right time for Oregon. The only other match remaining was at No. 6, where Fresno State's Fadzai Masiyazi was at match point, ahead 6-3, 3-6, 5-3 and ad-out on her opponent Ester Bak's serve.
While the clinching match came at No. 2, the end result may have been sealed at the beginning of the dual, when Fresno State (16-9) started sluggishly in doubles and wound up dropping the point to fall behind 1-0 going into singles.
One of the match's most crucial -- and perhaps most surprising -- results was at No. 2 doubles, where Tallo and Jacqui Haskett, owners of a solid 12-3 record coming in, were bounced easily by Oregon's No. 2 team of Anna Leksinka and Jamie Marshall 8-4. Leksinka and Marshall went only 8-9 this spring and were actually split up toward the end of the season. But UO head coach Nils Schyllander elected to team to combo up again for the NCAA's, and their victory was key in leading the Ducks to an early lead.
"I was not happy with the way we came out in singles or doubles. That was disappointing, especially in a (NCAA) match like this," head coach Simon Thibodeau. "We knew the doubles point would be crucial, because we expected a tight match. So I was hoping we would be a bit more ready."
The Ducks made it a 2-0 lead when Marshall finished off Courtney Jantz at No. 4 singles by scores of 6-4, 6-1. But despite the deficit, Fresno State was by no means in trouble. The Bulldogs had posted first set wins at Nos. 3, 5 and 6, and at No. 1 Katharina Winterhalter had pushed 51st-ranked Daria Panova to near exhaustion while dropping the first set 7-6 (4). Frequently after long points in her first set, Panova hunched over for several seconds to catch her breath and wait for the pain in her ankle to subside.
The Bulldogs, who saw their eight-match winning streak come to a close, cut the lead in half when Haskett breezed through Leksinka 6-3, 6-1 at No. 5. The freshman, who at the end of the year was playing her best tennis of the season, ended the 2005 campaign having won her last six in a row.
Fresno State made it 2-2 when Lucia Sainz completed her clinic at No. 3 singles. Playing perhaps her best all-around match of the season, Sainz clocked 98th-ranked Davina Mendiburu 6-3, 6-2, and suddenly the Bulldogs were right back in it.
But the momentum swung back in favor of Oregon not long thereafter. At No. 1, Panova took out Winterhalter 7-6 (4), 6-3 to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead. It was a very strong second-set performance for the Russia-born Panova, who bore no resemblance to the player in the first set who appeared ready to refund her breakfast on several occasions. As her maladies seemed to go away, so did the errors in her game. Panova jumped ahead 5-1 in the second set before dropping back-to-back games to allow Winterhalter a glimmer of hope.
But Panova was able to close out the second set 6-3, setting the stage for Dieskova, who at the time of Panova's victory was trailing 4-3 on Tallo's serve in the second set. But Dieskova broke serve to make it 4-4 and then outlasted Tallo in two long, deuce-filled games that allowed Oregon to advance to the second round.
"This team really went through a lot this year," Thibodeau said. "We obviously had plenty of obstacles to overcome, so I'm proud that we were still able to win the WAC for a fourth year in a row and make it to the NCAA Tournament. I may not be pleased with today's outcome, but I am happy with the year as a whole."
NCAA Tournament - First Round
Records: Fresno State (16-9); Oregon (17-7)
Records: Fresno State (16-9); Oregon (17-7)