Norfolk, Va.--A gutsy effort from the No. 63-ranked Georgia State women's tennis team came up just short as it lost a 4-3 match in the CAA Championship match to No. 43-ranked VCU on Sunday at the Folkes-Stevens Tennis Center.
After almost four hours of play, the CAA title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Women's Tennis Championship came down to two singles matches that both went to second-set tiebreakers. Two matches remained with VCU (21-4) leading the team score 3-2 over GSU (11-7).
Junior Whitney Byrd, who fought back from a 3-0 deficit in her second set, held a one-set lead as her arduous second set proceeded on. The gritty Atlanta, Ga., native battled back to break serve when she was behind 6-5 to enter her second-set tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Byrd once again was staring down a deficit, trailing 4-2 and needing to break serve to get back in the match. The junior not only broke, but took five straight points to take the tiebreaker 7-4 for a 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4) victory. Byrd was also down 4-0 in her first-set tiebreaker before she rallied to win it.
Byrd's win set up the deciding match at the No. 4 singles position with GSU sophomore Maryna Kozachenko dueling with VCU's Alena Gerasimova. Again a GSU singles player trailed 6-5 and faced the tough task of breaking serve to force a second-set tiebreaker. Kozachenko came through yet again for the Panthers as the Kiev, Ukraine, native broke serve to tie the second set. She held a one-set lead after she raced out to a 6-4 win in the first set.
Kozachenko engaged in long rally after long rally with the evenly-matched Gerasimova in the tiebreaker as neither player stretched their lead beyond one point throughout. Kozachenko had a match point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but the sophomore sent a forehand just long. The match went on and Gerasimova took the second-set tiebreaker 9-7.
After just more than four hours on the court, Kozachenko went into her third set fighting to keep GSU's CAA title hopes alive. The tense third set was once again highlighted by long rallies traded between the two players, but Gerasimova struck early by earning an early break against Kozachenko. She did not relinquish the advantage and won the match 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 to give VCU the CAA title.
Sophomore Abigail Tere-Apisah continued her dominance in singles play this season with her 17th singles victory of the year on Sunday. Tere-Apisah, the No. 36-ranked player in the ITA Women's National Singles rankings, won 6-0, 7-5 over VCU's Ana Bara. She extended her winning streak in singles play to six matches. The Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, native awaits the announcement of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship singles competition bracket. The competition will be held between the dates of May 17-28 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in nearby Athens, Ga.
The Panthers began the marathon match with exceptional doubles play to earn the doubles point. Tere-Apisah and senior Tereza Lerova breezed to an 8-2 win vs. a regionally-ranked doubles team in VCU's Alex and Ana Bara. Byrd and Kozachenko nearly won their match with similar ease as they took an 8-4 victory vs. VCU's Daria Yakauleva and Olga Terteac.
Georgia State finishes its season 11-7 and has now advanced to the CAA Championship three out of the last four seasons. The Panthers lose two seniors from their lineup for next season in Lerova and Martina Ondrackova. Lerova owns 30 doubles wins for her career and 22 singles wins across her three seasons as a Panther. Ondrackova was a key doubles player for Georgia State in her career, earning 21 doubles wins and 10 singles wins.
Fifth-year head coach Miha Lisac now begins offseason preparations for his team. The Georgia State women's tennis team will next be in action in the fall of 2012. Visit the women's tennis page on www.GeorgiaStateSports.com for updates on Tere-Apisah's play at the NCAA Championship and other offseason news.