Evansville, IN – After dropping the doubles point and trailing 3-1 halfway through singles play, the Austin Peay State University (APSU) women’s tennis team won the final three singles matches of the afternoon to complete the comeback and beat top-seeded Southeast Missouri, 4-3, to clinch the Governors second-straight Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Tennis Championship, Sunday, at the Wesselman Tennis Center.
Austin Peay State University fell behind to start Sunday’s title match, with Southeast Missouri winning a pair of hard-fought matches in No. 1 and No. 3 doubles to claim the doubles point.
With the Govs trailing 1-0 to start singles play, OVC Freshman of the Year Jana Leder picked up a two-set win over Southeast Missouri’s Kseniya Zonova in No. 3 singles that would go on to set the stage for the Governors late comeback.
However Southeast Missouri didn’t let the APSU Govs grab all the momentum to start singles play, as the Redhawks knocked off Martina Paladini-Jennings in No. 5 singles and Honoka Nakanishi in No. 6 singles to retake the lead and put all Governors left on the court in a must-win situation.
Needing three points to defend their 2019 OVC Tournament title with three matches left on the court, the Governors embarked on a comeback for the ages. Second-Team All-OVC selection Fabienne Schmidt was the first to contribute to the comeback with a three-set win in No. 1 singles.
Schmidt won the first set of her match, before dropping the second set to OVC Player of the Year Romana Tarajova, but the Govs senior bounced back to win, 6-4, in the final set and keep the title hopes alive.
With just two matches left, Aleks Topalovic was next to put a point on the board for the Governors in the No. 4 singles match. After dropping the first set to Ksenia Shikanova, Topalovic bounced back to pick up a 7-5 win in a must-win second set. In the third set, the Governors junior from London took control of the match and picked up a workmanlike 6-4 win to tie the match at 3-3 with just No. 2 singles left to play.
With the championship tied 3-3, Second-Team All-OVC selection Danielle Morris was the last Governor standing on the No. 2 singles court. After dropping the opening set, Morris handily won the second set, 6-1, to even the match and keep Austin Peay State University alive.
With the third set tied 5-5, Morris won the penultimate game of the match to take a 6-5 lead with all of her teammates standing on the next court watching. The decisive point of the marathon No. 2 singles match and the OVC Championship came when Morris hit a lob shot that Southeast Missouri’s Daniela Hlacikova returned into the net, sending the Governors into jubilant celebration with their second-consecutive OVC Tournament title now in hand.
Sunday’s OVC Championship match against the Redhawks marked the Govs seventh-straight win, Austin Peay has not dropped a match since they fell to Southeast Missouri, April 2, in the regular season.
Austin Peay State University’s second-straight OVC Championship also sends the Governors to their second-straight NCAA Women’s Tennis Tournament. The Govs will find out their first-round opponent during the NCAA Selection Show at 5:00pm, May 3rd, and first round play will begin at 16 sites on Friday, May 7th.
Quotably, Coach Ross Brown
On winning another championship
“It feels wonderful. It’s a little bit of relief, but a lot of joy, and I am extremely proud of how our women fought out here. They truly did leave everything out here, there is nothing left. I think Danielle, who clinched this for us today, she was out of gas at the start of the third set – there is nothing left in her tank – it was just a sensational match. The effort that she put forward was just spectacular, the same with the other girls, even the ones that didn’t win. They left everything out on the court and I just couldn’t be more proud.”
On today’s match
“It was an absolutely incredible college match. It was one of the best college matches that I have been involved in 27-plus years. It was fun.”
On the Govs comeback
“It says we are resilient. One of the things we try to do is be consistent with our emotions all the way through and play one point at a time. But you throw all that stuff out the window and it just came down to guts. It just came down to guts. I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of this team.”
Order of Finish: 1, 3*
1. Fabienne Schmidt (APSU) def. Romana Tarajova (SEMO) 6-3, 0-6, 6-4
2. Danielle Morris (APSU) def. Daniela Hlacikova (SEMO) 6-7, 6-1, 7-5
3. Jana Leder (APSU) def. Kseniya Zonova (SEMO) 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
4. Aleks Topalovic (APSU) def. Ksenia Shikanova (SEMO) 4-6, 7-5, 6-4
5. Vivian Lai (SEMO) def. Martina Paladini-Jennings (APSU) 6-2, 6-3
6. Teona Velkoska (SEMO) def. Honoka Nakanishi (APSU) 6-1, 2-6, 6-2
Order of Finish: 3, 5, 6, 1, 4, 2*