HUNTSVILLE – Freshman Sahaja Yamalapalli fought off five match points to win the deciding number three singles in a three-set thriller to power Sam Houston to a 4-3 women’s tennis victory over Abilene Christian Sunday afternoon at the McAdams Tennis Center.
The Wildcats, runners-up in the 2017 Southland Conference race, came into the contest with a 20-match winning streak in the all-time series between the two universities. Sam Houston’s last victory over the Wildcats came in 1983 when the two schools were competing in the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference.
Yamalapalli defeated sophomore Sarah Adams 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. She was down two match points, 30-40 in the 10th game and trailed 15-40 in the 12th game. Yamalapalli won the tiebreaker 7-5.
“Five match points, I can’t believe it,” Yamalapalli said. “My teammates were there cheering me on and pumping me up. They had my back. When I was down 15-40, they were right there telling me I could do it. It was incredible.”
Senior Fabiene Gettwart got the ball rolling with a 6-3 6-2 victory at number one over Lucile Pothier. Also a senior, Pothier was a 20-match winner overall in 2017 and an All-Southland Conference performer last year.
Senior Mila Milanovic earned the next point for the Bearkats, defeating Autumn Crossnoe 6-4 6-4 at number five. After Abilene Christian picked up wins at the number two and five positions, sophomore Lusine Chobanyan knotted the team score at 3-3 with a 7-5 6-2 win at number six over Ileana Mocciola.
Abilene Christian opened the day by winning the doubles point with victories in the number one and two positions. Milanovic and Yamalapalli combined to take the number three doubles 6-4
“I told the team after we lost the doubles point ‘I guess with have to do it the hard way.’ It’s a great thing for a freshman to come back, save five match points and win against a veteran player,” Sam Houston head coach Rob Hubbard said. “It was huge. We sure could take a lot of pressure off ourselves if we could start getting that doubles point. But everybody battled. Fab beat one of the better players in the conference. Lusine and Mila took care of business. And Sahaja found a way to win. What a match.”
Sam Houston upped its season record to 7-3, only the third time since the Bearkats moved up to the NCAA Division I level in 1986 the tennis team has won seven of its first ten matches. The Kats are 2-1 in Southland Conference play. Abilene Christian dropped to 7-6 for the year and 1-2 in the league.
Next action for the Bearkats is a road trip to South Texas next weekend to take on Incarnate Word in San Antonio and two-time defending Southland champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Corpus.
SAM HOUSTON 4, ABILENE CHRISTIAN 3
March 11, 2018 Huntsville, Texas (McAdams Tennis Center)
1. Fabienne Gettwart (SHSU) def. Lucile Pothier (ACU) 6-3, 6-2
2. Whitney Williams (ACU) def. Khee Yen Wee (SHSU) 6-2, 6-2
3. Sahaja Yamalapalli (SHSU) def. Sarah Adams (ACU) 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5)
4. Nini Memishishi (ACU) def. Carrie Casey (SHSU) 6-1, 7-5
5. Mila Milanovic (SHSU) def. Autumn Crossnoe (ACU) 6-4, 6-4
6. Lusine Chobanyan (SHSU) def. Ileana Mocciola (ACU) 7-5, 6-2
1. Nini Memishishi/Lucile Pothier (ACU) def. Roos Gerritsen/Fabienne Gettwart (SHSU) 6-2
2. Sarah Adams/Autumn Crossnoe (ACU) def. Carrie Casey/Khee Yen Wee (SHSU) 6-4
3. Mila Milanovic/Sahaja Yamalapalli (SHSU) def. Ileana Mocciola/Whitney Williams (ACU) 6-4