By Will Potter
After falling short in a comeback effort versus No. 23 Virginia in the first round of the ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Championship, the No. 3 Lady Bears fought back to earn two consecutive victories over top-15 teams and finish the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., on a positive note.
“We played well against Virginia but they just played a better match,” said head coach Joey Scrivano. “We didn’t come out with much energy but the rest of the weekend I thought we had a great sense of urgency and played really well.”
The team lost to Virginia on Friday but beat No. 11 Tennessee on Saturday and topped No. 7 UCLA on Sunday.
Against Virginia with the match count 3-3, the final outcome rested in the hands of Baylor’s No. 30 ranked Diana Nakic. Nakic dropped the match to Lindsey Hardenburgin a hard-fought, third-set tiebreaker 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(6).
“After the loss to Virginia we made some major attitude changes, and I felt like we really improved in many areas,” senior Karolina Filipiak said. “All of us came out more focused and ready to win in our next match.”
The next day that focus and will to win was evident as the Lady Bears faced the No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers, making a big statement by trouncing the Volunteers 4-1.
Baylor dropped the doubles point early to start the match yet again but would not drop another match as they swept through singles play and dismantled Tennessee.
“Beating Tennessee was big for us because it helped us see how good we can be,” Filipiak said. “It helped show us where we are right now, where we want to be when the NCAA tournament comes around.”
Looking for its second consecutive win versus a top-15 opponent in as many days, the Lady Bears needed a comeback to defeat UCLA and got exactly that en route to a clutch 4-2 win.
The Baylor women dropped the doubles point for the fifth consecutive time but went 4-1 in singles play.
Filipiak got the Bears a crucial singles point by winning an up-and-down three-setter, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
The next two on the board for the Lady Bears, junior Sona Novakova and senior Jelena Stanivuk, both won their matches in straight sets.
With Baylor leading UCLA 3-2 and with two matches still on court, the dual match depended on two three-set matches featuring Nakic and junior Nina Secerbegovic. Both took control of their matches in crunch time, but Nakic finished off Noelle Hickey first and clinched the match with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), third-set tiebreak win.
“Until you beat a top ranked team, you don’t know who you are, and you struggle to find your identity,” Scrivano said. “The bottom line is beating teams like UCLA and Tennessee is a big deal. I was really proud of our toughness and our ability to pull together after a loss and beat two really great teams.”
While Baylor was satisfied with beating two top ranked teams, it believes there is still much room for improvement.
“We can’t be satisfied with our ranking,” Filipiak said. “We need to improve every day, practice harder every day and if we do that, we can achieve our ultimate goal of winning an NCAA championship.”