No. 9 Baylor women’s tennis tops No. 5 Virginia

Sophmore Blair Shankle  plays back a serve from Virgina's Skylar Morton in Saturdays Women's tennis singles match.Hannah Haseloff
Sophmore Blair Shankle plays back a serve from Virgina’s Skylar Morton in Saturdays Women’s tennis singles match. Shankle beat Morton 6-2, 6-2, part of Baylor’s commanding 6-1 victory over the Cavaliers
Hannah Haseloff

By Cody Soto
Sports Writer

No. 9 Baylor women’s tennis downed a top-five opponent for the second time this season as the Lady Bears defeated No. 5-ranked Virginia 6-1 Saturday night at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.

The Lady Bears (2-0) experienced an unusual situation as they entered the match with a 2-0 advantage because two of Virginia’s players sat out due to illness. Both senior Ema Burgic and head coach Joey Scrivano agreed that it was an advantage and added pressure to the team’s performance.

“They’re one of the best teams in the country; it was a unique situation indeed,” Scrivano said. “We had to work hard on getting our mindset as a team on the right track. This is just situational tennis; you’ve got to play them out. The girls did a great job though.”

With one doubles match already won, Burgic and sophomore Blair Shankle took down No.11 duo Skylar Morton and Cassie Mercer 6-4 to award the doubles point to Baylor.

“We started off slow in doubles because in the back of your mind you’re thinking, ‘we only need to win two more matches,’ so it was hard to focus, but all the girls came out today and showed who are,” Burgic said. “We’re good enough to beat anyone in the country.”

Virginia’s Stephanie Nauta and Maci Epstein defeated junior Kiah Generette and freshman Theresa Van Zyl in a tight 7-6 (7-4) win, but the Lady Bears only needed one more point to clinch the match.

Things were a lot different for freshman Leolia JeanJean on Saturday than they were last week. JeanJean had clinched the match-winning point against then-No. 5 Georgia, but the Montpellier, France native dropped a 6-3, 3-0 decision to Cassie Mercer.

Shankle clinched the match-winning point for the Lady Bears this weekend as she blitzed Morton with a service ace to end the rally 6-2, 6-2. Burgic also downed No. 16 Nauta 6-2, 6-2 as the Lady Bears piled up the points at the end.

“There is still a lot that I can show,” Burgic said. “I felt that I was under more pressure than usual. I didn’t show my top game, but it was just enough to beat her.”

Generette was the final Lady Bear on the court and put on a show for the crowd. After sweeping the opening set 6-0, she dropped the second set 6-7 (8-10) to force a super tiebreaker. In the final set, Generette kept poise and ended the match with a 10-6 tiebreaker win.

“If you’ve followed her career, she’s lost a lot of super tiebreakers,” Scrivano said. “I’m so proud of her because she’s been able to play situational tennis, which has been the struggle for her. In that tiebreaker, she played it perfectly.”

While another ranked win gives this top-10 team confidence, Scrivano knows there’s a long way to go in a spring season of women’s tennis.

“Our players know they can compete with anyone in the country, but it’s early so we’ve got to work on some things and get better,” Scrivano said.

After another top 5 win, the Lady Bears will host Pittsburgh and Texas Pan American on Jan. 30 at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. The match times are set for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively.