09 Dec 2021 | 14:52 | Tennis
CAYCE, S.C.—In the quarterfinal round of the BIG EAST Tennis Championships Presented by Jeep on Friday morning, #3 seed Villanova (7-3) made quick work of #6 seed Creighton (10-6) and advanced to the semifinals with a 4-0 victory at the Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center. The victory sets up a semifinal match against #2 seed DePaul on Saturday morning at 10 a.m..
It took just 30 minutes for the Wildcats to capture the doubles point and an early lead in Friday’s match against Creighton, which had reached the quarterfinal round by way of a 4-0 win over #11 seed Providence on Thursday afternoon. Villanova then won the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 6 singles matches to clinch the team outcome and return to the semifinal round for the second straight year in which the conference championships have been held.
Junior Annalise Klopfer (Palm Harbor, Fla.) and senior Claudia Althans (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) each won their singles and doubles matches in the top two spots in the lineup. Klopfer teamed with senior Lexi DeNucci (Glastonbury, Conn.) in the No. 1 doubles match and Althans played with junior Emily Strande (Centennial, Colo.) at No. 2 doubles. The third singles victory for the Wildcats came from freshman Bella Steffen (Cary, N.C.) in the sixth spot in the lineup.
The three doubles matches were all decided within four minutes of each other. Klopfer and DeNucci earned a 6-1 win over Kate Krueger and Sarah Wilcox, with that competition and the No. 3 doubles match ending simultaneously at 9:26 a.m. after just 26 minutes of play. Junior Sabina Grigorian (Atlanta, Ga.) and freshman Rose Kenny (Charlotte, N.C.) were defeated in a 6-2 decision by Malvika Shukla and Erin Epperson.
Althans and Strande secured the first team point of the match just four minutes later when Althans and Strande finished their 6-1 victory over Joanna Nowakowska and Gabby O’Connor at 9:30 a.m. The strong start for Villanova was nothing new and the team is now 19-7 (.731) in doubles matches which have been played to completion this season.
Singles play opened with Klopfer racing out of the gates and defeating Krueger in a 6-0, 6-4 decision at No. 1 singles to extend the Wildcats lead in the match to 2-0. Althans was the next player to finish, with her 6-2, 6-3 win over Wilcox putting the Wildcats on the brink of winning the match. Steffen was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Meredith Benson at No. 6 singles to tally the winning team point.
Three other singles matches were still in progress when Villanova decided the team outcome. DeNucci was in a tight battle with Shukla at No. 3 singles where she lost the opening set 7-5 but had a 2-1 lead in the second set. Strande was leading Nowakowska 7-6, 2-1 in the fourth singles match, while sophomore Caitlin Fisher (Cincinnati, Ohio) rallied after losing the first set at No. 5 singles and was tied with Epperson 4-6, 6-2, 1-1.
Saturday’s match against DePaul will be a rematch of the 2019 semifinal meeting between the teams when the Blue Demons tallied a narrow 4-2 victory. The winner this time around will advance to the championship match on Sunday morning against the winner of the other semifinal which matches up #1 seed Xavier with #4 seed St. John’s.
NOTES: The double wins for Althans on Friday give her 97 total career victories … She is 51-20 in doubles and 46-26 in singles during her Wildcats career … Klopfer and DeNucci improved to 8-1 as a doubles pairing, while Althans and Strande are 6-2.