In its first match in the top-20 ever as a program, Oregon women’s tennis was tied 3-3 with the visiting Baylor Bears and the only thing standing between victory and defeat was a battle of freshmen.
The Ducks returned home to Eugene for a home match for the first time since the thrilling 4-3 victory over then-ranked No. 23 Northwestern and fans in attendance were treated to an almost exact replay.
The No. 17 Oregon women’s tennis team defeated Baylor in a close 4-3 victory after freshman Julia Lilien clinched her match 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and was immediately mobbed by her teammates.
Lilien, who is often called “ace” by teammates and fans, was emotional after the hard-fought comeback she had, calling it one of her toughest matches of the season.
The freshman trailed early but didn’t panic, making the necessary adjustments to defeat fellow freshman Livia Kraus.
“I really just stuck to the game plan,” Lilien said. “I changed up a little after the first set. I was making some errors. I definitely refocused, listened to my coach and followed my game plan to win the next two sets there.”
One major difference in this match was that the Ducks were not playing catch up, taking the doubles point for the second straight match after dropping the previous three.
Head coach Alison Silverio switched up the pairings hoping to spark a change in fortune.
“Sometimes you’ve got to mix it up to get chemistry and compliments going,” Silverio said. “I think it was successful today, but we certainly have work to do in that area.”
Senior Alyssa Tobita and sophomore Rifanty Kahfiani defeated Angelina Shakhraichuk and Theresa Van Zyl 6-4 and were then matched by junior Shweta Sangwan and sophomore Julia Eshet, who defeated Kristina Sorokolet and Jessica Hinojosa 6-4 as well. This left Lilien and junior Daniela Nasser’s 6-5 lead unfinished against Dominika Sujova and Giorgia Testa.
“The coaches told us yesterday, but we’ve played these pairings before so it’s not that crazy to us,” Tobita said. “It’s still natural. Me and [Kahfiani] have good chemistry, so it’s really fun to play with her. We just have to be ready for whatever matches we have.
The singles portion of the match was as up-and-down as can be.
Sangwan gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead after downing Sujova 6-2, 6-0. Baylor then responded with Shakhraichuk defeating Eshet 6-3, 6-1.
No. 125 Tobita put the Ducks one win away from victory after beating Van Zyl in straight sets.
Tobita now has a career record of 70-43, and is now four victories away from reaching the top-3 in program history.
“That’s kinda crazy. I didn’t know that actually,” Tobita said. “Halfway through my senior season — that’s kinda scary. I am happy to kinda just focus on the next match and not really think about that.”
After Paiton Wagner dropped her match to Hinojosa, it was up to Nasser or Lilien to close out victory.
Nasser picked up an injury midway through her fight but fought off Camilla Abbate long enough for Lilien to regain confidence in her match and pick up the victory for the Ducks.
The Ducks’ next match is this Sunday, Feb. 25, at 12 p.m. in Eugene against the Idaho Vandals.
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack