LAS VEGAS - Over the years the UNLV women’s tennis team has faced regional rival Pepperdine in a lot of different settings ? playing in Malibu just yards from the Pacific Ocean, under the warm sun here in the desert, a dozen times in the regular season and twice in the NCAA tournament. In fact, the two tangled just last month at the Los Angeles Tennis Center as part of an ITA team kickoff event. There was one constant during the long series, however, as in all 14 previous meetings the perennially powerful Waves defeated the Lady Rebels.
Not this time.
The 30th-ranked Rebs continued their impressive non-conference surge by notching a seventh consecutive victory (or every match since a gut-wrenching 4-3 loss to this same Pepperdine squad on January 30) with a 4-3 thriller over the 37th-ranked visitors on a sunny but breezy Sunday at Fertitta Tennis Complex.
UNLV, which is a perfect 10-0 at home this season, improved to 10-2 overall while the Waves fell to 4-6 after playing their fifth consecutive match away from home.
Remarkably, the hosts were able to rally past Pepperdine without benefit of the usual automatic victory on top of the singles lineup as senior star Kristina Nedeltcheva retired early in the second set to taste defeat for the first time in singles play since October and, remarkably, drop a dual matchup for the first time since March 27, 2009.
Nedeltcheva did get to help her team in doubles earlier in the day as she and partner Jana Albers were the first off the courts with an 8-2 win over Anamika Bhargava and Marie Zalameda to improve to 11-1 at the top spot this semester. UNLV then clinched the key 1-0 lead when Nives Pavlovic and Adrienn Hidvegi downed Tania Rice and Arianna Colffer 8-6 on court three. The Lady Rebels soon made it a clean sweep when 43rd-ranked Alisa Razina and Anna Maskaljun finished off Andrea Oates and Alexandria Waters 8-5 at the middle position.
Moving to singles play, Pepperdine tied it with Nedeltcheva's retirement but nails-tough Hidvegi improved her record to 16-5 overall by quickly closing out Zalamedia 7-5, 6-2 at No. 4. The Waves then won straight-setters on courts five and two to take a 3-2 lead and put all the pressure on the home team.
Sophomore Rumyana Terzieva continued her strong play by going three sets with Tania Rice and emerging 7-5, 3-6, 6-0 to re-tie things.
All eyes eventually moved to court three where freshman Pavlovic was battling Walters, who is ranked 98th nationally in singles. The Rebel won the first set easily but fell quickly in the second. With the team match on the line, Walters rallied to lead 6-5 (30-love) at one point. Pavlovic, who lost in three sets in last month's late-night meeting with the Waves, showed a tremendous amount of grit in staving off defeat, forcing a tiebreaker and finally closing out the biggest win of her young career 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4).
"This is a huge victory for our team and to have Nives come back to win the deciding match showed a lot of courage and heart on her part," said an elated UNLV head coach Kevin Cory. "Pepperdine is always one of the top programs in the nation so this was a big one for us. The girls have really laid it on the line these past two weekends (collecting four ranked wins in 10 days) to put us in a great position at this point in the season."
UNLV has only lost the doubles point twice in a dozen outings this semester and the team boasts an eye-popping 30-4 total doubles record in dual matches. Cory said those statistics are no accident.
"Doubles has been a focus for us this season and it's great to see all the hard work from practice paying off in matches. Doubles play really sets the tone for most matches and we feel we have three outstanding teams on the courts this season."
UNLV now heads into a well-earned break as it will next be in action on March 13 when it hosts Hawaii beginning at 10 a.m.
"This is a great time for our girls to get healed up and rested after a string of really tough matches."
WOMEN’S TENNIS RESULTS
#30 UNLV 4, #37 PEPPERDINE 3
Feb. 28, 2010
At Fertitta Tennis Complex, Las Vegas
1. Arianna Colffer (PEPP) def. #45 Kristina Nedeltcheva (UNLV) 6-4, 1-0 retired
2. Anamika Bhargava (PEPP) def. #72 Jana Albers (UNLV) 6-3, 6-4
3. Nives Pavlovic (UNLV) def. #98 Alexandria Walters (PEPP) 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (4)
4. Adrienn Hidvegi (UNLV) def. Marie Zalameda (PEPP) 7-5, 6-2
5. Andrea Oates (PEPP) def. Anna Maskaljun (UNLV) 6-4, 6-4
6. Rumyana Terzieva (UNLV) def. Tania Rice (PEPP) 7-5, 3-6, 6-0
1. Nedeltcheva/Albers (UNLV) def. Bhargava/Zalameda (PEPP) 8-2
2. #43 Alisa Razina/Maskaljun (UNLV) def. Walters/Oates (PEPP) 8-5
3. Pavlovic/Hidvegi (UNLV) def. Rice/Colffer (PEPP) 8-6
ORDER OF FINISH:
Doubles ? 1,3*,2
Singles ? 1,4,5,2,6,3*