The No. 10 Miami Hurricanes (3-1), a preseason top-16 team, were rewarded with a host nomination for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The ‘Canes hosted the No. 18 UCLA, No. 24 Iowa State and Florida International University (FIU) Panthers at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables, Florida.
Miami advanced to the finals of the tournament before coming up just short against the Cyclones, 3-4.
The four-team tournament occurred over the course of the weekend, with UM first battling against FIU. The winner would advance to play the victors of UCLA and Iowa State, adding extra stakes to the South Florida rivalry.
Miami started the day on fire as it dominated all facets of the game to collect the doubles point. Junior Audrey Boch-Collins and freshman Mia Mack crushed their opponents, 6-0, while redshirt sophomore Alexa Noel and junior Isabella Pfennig finished the next match, 6-3. Fifth-year senior Devenia Achong and fourth-year junior Maya Tahan were winning 4-3 when the match was abandoned.
Leading 1-0, it was a race to see which of the Hurricanes could finish first. UM collectively demolished the Panthers early on, as every player won their opening set. Noel was forced to a tiebreaker on Court 1 but comfortably won, 7-6 (7-1), to complete the first set sweep.
Achong on Court 2 was the first to finish, as she sprinted to a 6-3, 6-2 victory. Tahan finished next, as she won, 6-3, 6-3, to put the ‘Canes a victory away from winning entirely.
On Court 1, Noel finished the deal as she blanked her opponent in the second set to win 7-6, 6-0 and advance Miami to the championship game. The final three matches were called with UM leading or tied in every match.
While the ‘Canes were likely gearing up to face the No. 18 UCLA Bruins (1-2), it was actually the No. 24 Cyclones (3-1) who moved along to the finals, as they edged UCLA, 4-3, in the waning light Saturday evening.
The following afternoon, the Hurricanes and the Cyclones duked it out on a fittingly windy day. The Cyclones struck first, as they narrowly snatched the doubles point. On Court 3, Boch-Collins and Mack fell, 3-6, while Achong and Tahan came up just short as they lost, 4-6.
Despite trailing, there was an air of optimism as the singles play commenced. Needing four ‘Canes to prevail, five of six won their opening sets with only Boch-Collins trailing on Court 4, 3-6.
Tahan leveled the match with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory on Court 6. The junior finished the weekend undefeated for the ‘Canes. Next, Pfennig pushed Miami ahead, 2-1, as she came out on top, 6-3, 6-4.
Mack put the Hurricanes tantalizingly close to victory, as she defeated the No. 114-ranked Cyclone, 7-5, 6-4, on Court 5. With UM now up 3-1 and needing one more victory, Courts 1, 2 and 4 were still up in the air.
Iowa State answered quickly, claiming one of the three remaining points as Boch-Collins lost, 3-6, 4-6.
With Courts 1 and 2 remaining, things took a scary turn as Achong fell behind, 2-5, in her third set on Court 2, and Noel trailed, 3-5, on Court 1.
Noel battled off one match point, and at 4-5, she had three opportunities to tie the third set, but she lost the next three points to lose, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6.
With all hope now resting on Achong’s shoulders, she responded, winning three straight games to tie the set at 5-5. The Cyclones proved too strong, as Achong was defeated 6-2, 4-6, 5-7 to give Iowa State a 4-3 victory in the ITA Kick-off Weekend.
“I think that, kind of, the rhythm of the match went their way after doubles. Typically, if we lose the doubles point, we don’t really carry it forward. But I think that doubles affected us today a little bit and we can’t let them happen,” Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said. “But, once again, listen, I give a lot of credit to Iowa State. I think their energy, their enthusiasm, the way they played, the way they came after us — I think it caught us by surprise a little bit at some positions. We can’t let that happen if we want to win matches like that. But, look, I’m proud of the effort. Our girls laid it out there today. It was just that they were a little bit better than us.”
The Hurricanes have a chance to get in the win column when they play Florida Gulf Coast this Friday. The match is set to take place at noon at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.