Athens, Ga.--Georgia State women's tennis sophomore Abigail Tere-Apisah earned the first victory at the NCAA Championships in GSU tennis history with a 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-0 win over Santa Clara's Katie Le in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Singles Championship on Wednesday.
After the two split the first two sets, Tere-Apisah roared out to a 1-0 lead in the deciding set by not allowing a point in the opening game. She did not look back from then on and dominated the deciding set en route to the victory. Tere-Apisah, the No. 37-ranked player in the ITA Division I Women's National Singles rankings, advances to face the No. 57-ranked Lauren Szekely from the University of Tennessee on Thursday. The match is set for 10 a.m. on Thursday morning.
Tere-Apisah battled through her first two sets against Le, who made few mistakes in the first two sets to keep the match tight. After dropping the second set, Tere-Apisah came out in the third with a renewed vigor.
"I told myself that I wanted to play my game and get over the nerves, otherwise I would've struggled," Tere-Apisah said, "I told myself to just go for it. I really wanted to win this match."
A critical point of the match came in the first set after Tere-Apisah fell behind 6-5 with Le to serve. Tere-Apisah rallied to break serve and force the set into a tiebreaker to decide the set. Tere-Apisah dictated the tempo early in the tiebreaker by jumping out to a commanding 4-1 lead and eventually took the tiebreaker 7-4.
"I just kept trying to do everything I could to keep the ball in the court during the tiebreaker," Tere-Apisah said, "I kept telling myself, 'Don't make mistakes.'"
Tere-Apisah showed flashes of aggressive play in the second set when she faced a 5-4 deficit and then fell behind 40-0 in the game. She fought off all three set points from Le and then took two more points to knot the score up at 5-5.
"Le is a very good all-around player, I thought she played consistently well and forced Abby to win points," fifth-year head coach Miha Lisac said, "For the most part Abby was able to do that. I think there were two or three games where she tried to finish off the points too quickly and those ended up as mistakes. But Abby handled it very well and was on top of her game in the third set."
Tere-Apisah utilized her improved serve to rattle off four straight points to grab the first game of the third set. She broke Le in the next game then finished off a victory in the third game by blistering a serve that Le hit wide. Up 3-0, Tere-Apisah then broke Le again while only allowing one point to gain a commanding 4-0 lead. Le worked the next game into her favor and had two break points, but Tere-Apisah responded with two forehand winners each time and a forehand winner to close out the game. The final game went to deuce twice before Tere-Apisah closed out the victory.
"I feel that with Abby, when she focuses on her game and executes it well, it doesn't really matter who she plays, she will finish off points and play aggressively," Lisac said, "We focused on serving in practice, and her serve started becoming a weapon today, maybe not consistently, but it got her back into a game or closed out some games today."
The No. 60-ranked Le from Santa Clara became the fifth nationally-ranked player to fall to Tere-Apisah this season. It was also the first victory in which the Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, native had to win in three sets since an Apr. 8 win vs. USF's No. 45-ranked Ecaterina Vasenina. Szekely, Tere-Apisah's second round opponent, defeated Michigan's No. 12-ranked Emina Bektas 6-4, 7-5 in the first round.
Fans can follow tomorrow's match by watching live video and live stats courtesy of the University of Georgia and a live blog on www.GeorgiaStateSports.com. Check back Wednesday night on www.GeorgiaStateSports.com for the time of Tere-Apisah's second round match.