Milinkovic and McKnight Earn Doubles Win at the Super Challenge
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - With two members of the DePaul women's tennis team competing at the ITA National Doubles Championships at Yale, the remaining united front of Blue Demons traveled to Western Michigan for the Bronco Super Challenge. Day one of competition saw DePaul compete in two rounds of doubles and a sole round of singles at the West Hills Athletic Club.
Prior to the first serve, Cali Gustafson, Gia McKnight, Katarina Milinkovic and Kirsten Gambrell, along with assistant coach Dunja Antunovic "watched" the live score updates of fellow teammates Selma Salkovic and Anna Redecsi as they competed in the quarterfinal round of the ITA National Doubles Championship. Up against the No. 1 seeded team from Tennessee, Redecsi and Salkovic led by as much as 5-1 before succumbing 8-6. Although miles apart, the foursome in Kalamazoo eagerly hit refresh on the computer screen, and cheered on their teammates as though they were actually there.
In the opening round of doubles at the Super Challenge, DePaul went up against pairs from host school Western Michigan. Gustafson and McKnight paired up for the first time this season and despite the close and hard fought battle, they lost an 8-6 decision to Amanda Moccia and Maggie Remynse. Gambrell and Milinkovic also got acquainted with one another on the court, having not played together during the 2009 fall season, but lost 8-4 to Emily Dudzik and Jill Pastunink.
"Of course we always want to win, but we cannot dwell on the early doubles losses," commented Antunovic shortly after the first round, "One of our goals at this tournament is to try different doubles teams and see how they work together. It gives us the opportunity to get prepared for the duel season as well as BIG EAST Conference competition."
After a brief break, the Blue Demons marched back onto the courts to play Indiana in singles action. Facing the top-three student-athletes from the Hoosier squad, Milinkovic, McKnight and Gustafson took the challenge head on, and despite aggressive performances, fell just short of tallying the first "W" of the day. McKnight, who battled her way to deuce on several occasions, couldn't quite catch a break, and bowed out 6-2, 6-2 against Katya Zapadalova. Milinkovic kept pace with Evgeniya Vertesheva in the first set with smart shot selections, but struggled to establish any momentum and lost 6-4, 6-2. Myriam Sopel proved to be a tough opponent for Gustafson, and was able to combat everything the Blue Demon sophomore hit in her direction to take the straight-set victory.
While the singles round wrapped up, the team was able to regroup and prepare themselves for the final doubles round of the day. Going head-to-head with BIG EAST Conference rival Louisville, Gustafson and Gambrell put together a heroic comeback after falling behind early, but the Cardinal tandem of Stefanie Villajuan and Sarah Millar finished the match, 8-6.
In perhaps the most exciting match of the day, McKnight and Milinkovic faced off against Mandy Brown Louise Noe in an evenly fought battle. Up 8-7, the Blue Demons threatened to break the Cardinal's serve after tying the game score at deuce. The score continued to teeter-totter back and forth between add-in and add-out before Louisville was finally able to secure the game and force a tiebreaker. McKnight led off with the serve and earned the early advantage, before the duo cruised its way to a 7-4 tiebreaker and match victory.
DePaul resumes the Bronco Super Challenge tomorrow, beginning at 9:00 a.m. (CST). They are slated to play one round of doubles and a round of singles.
Round 1 Doubles: Western Michigan vs. DePaul
Round 1 Singles: Indiana vs. DePaul
Round 2 Doubles: Louisville vs. DePaul