NATCHITOCHES – Rain didn’t stay away from the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex Monday, interrupting a Northwestern State surge that didn’t resume three hours later when competition restarted against McNeese.
The visiting Cowgirls took charge after the storm cleared out, snapping a nine-match winning streak by the Lady Demons by posting a 5-2 Southland Conference triumph. McNeese rose to 8-7 overall, 3-1 in the conference, winning in Natchitoches for the first time since 2002, while NSU slipped to 9-4 overall and 2-1 in the league.
When the rain came, McNeese had pulled out a hard-fought doubles point, but about 45 minutes into singles competition, the Lady Demons were making a move. McNeese was down a set in two of the six singles matches, was trailing in two others, with another tied and NSU a game back in the final one.
After the rain delay, the Cowgirls launched their comeback, rallying to split sets in four of the singles contests, captured another, and took opening sets in the remaining two.
The dominos began falling to the visitors, with Sarah Jurakova claiming the No. 2 match 7-5, 6-3 over Iryna Vardanian to move McNeese ahead 3-0.
Giovanna Fioretti’s 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory at No. 1 toppled NSU’s Polina Ivanova and clinched the match’s outcome.
Hanna Brett moved to 12-2 this spring with a three-setter (4-6, 6-3, 6-1) in the third position over NSU’s Polina Mutel before the Lady Demons got on the board.
NSU’s Emillija Dancetovic put away Phonexay Chitdara 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 in the No. 4 singles battle, and competition concluded with a pro set decision at No. 6 going to the Lady Demons’ Judit Castillo 5-7, 6-4, (10-4) over Stella Carra as sunlight reappeared early in the evening of a chilly day on the courts. Castillo’s victory raised her singles record to 7-1 in her freshman season.
“We had the momentum in singles but didn’t use the opportunities. We played very inconsistent and safe,” said Bazhanova. “Judit and Emma (Dancetovic) found the way to stay in the game and win.”
The Cowgirls snagged the doubles point in about an hour with a 7-5 triumph at No. 3 by Fioretti and Carra over Kateryna Avram and Vladislava Litvinova, followed by a 6-4 decision at No. 2 by Vivien Borbely and Erlandsson to top Ivanova and Dancetovic.
“It is disappointing we couldn’t bounce back after we lost the doubles point. McNeese fought hard and played well in pressure moments,” said Bazhanova, whose team has no seniors and five freshmen in action.
“We have to keep trusting ourselves and be brave, especially when we are in charge,” she said. “This team always fights hard, but we have to be more consistent with our process.”
The outcome was only the Cowgirls’ second in five seasons over the Lady Demons, who have played in the last four Southland Tournament championship matches, winning in 2013 and 2015.
NSU will play the next three conference matches, and five of the remaining seven, away from home, beginning next Saturday at Southeastern Louisiana followed by a visit to New Orleans next Sunday.
McNeese 5, Northwestern State 2
Jack Fisher Tennis Complex, Natchitoches
1. Giovanna Fioretti (MCN) def. Polina Ivanova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1
2. Sarah Jurakova (MCN) def. Iryna Vardanian 7-5, 6-3
3. Hannah Brett (MCN) def. Polina Mutel 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
4. Emilija Dancetovic (NSU) def. Phonexay Chitdara 6-2, 2-6, 6-2
5. Charoline Erlandsson (MCN) def. Vladislava Litvinova 6-4, 6-0
6. Judit Castillo (NSU) def. Stella Carra 5-7, 6-4, 10-4
1. Mutel/Vardanian (NSU) vs. Jurakova/Brett (MCN) unfinished
2. Erlandsson/Vivien Borbely (MCN) def. Ivanova/Dancetovic 6-4
3. Fioretti/Carra (MCN) def. Vladislava Litvinova/Kateryna Avram 7-5
McNeese 8-7 (3-1)
Northwestern State 9-4 (2-1)
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (5,2,1,3,4,6)
T-3:15 (not including 3:05 rain delay) A-101