Playing its final match of a late-season, six-match home stand, No. 59 William and Mary (10-9, 2-0 CAA) defeated No. 58 Marshall (14-6) in a high-energy 6-1 win Sunday in Williamsburg.
“In the end, what came out was just a will to win,” Head Coach Meredith Geiger-Walton said. “They did a great job of having their mental and emotional parts of their game really back up their physical game.”
The College started the match strong by securing the doubles point with a pair of comeback victories. The No. two pair of freshman Anik Cepeda and senior Carmen Pop struck first, storming to take three straight games to win 9-7.
Pop secured the first Tribe doubles win by dropping a return in between Marshall’s Michaela Kissel and Kara Kucin, forcing an errant backhand into the net.
“You never doubt [Pop] because she always believes that she can win, no matter what,” Geiger-Walton said. “Her will is so strong that even if she’s not 100 percent, she can win it mentally.”
Freshman Marlen Mesgarzadeh and junior Lauren Sabacinski clinched the doubles point with a 9-8 (3) come-from-behind victory in the No. three doubles slot. After trailing 7-6 late in the match, Mesgarzadeh and Sabacinski forced their Thundering Herd counterparts into two straight errors, giving the point to the College and tying the match at seven apiece.
The Tribe snagged one of the next two games, forcing a tiebreaker while climbing out to an early 5-3 lead. On the next point, Sabacinski broke the Marshall serve by smashing a lob attempt into Marshall’s Thaddea Lock, who was unable to return, giving the Tribe duo match point. Mesgarzadeh then made quick work of the Thundering Herd, when — on her first serve — she whacked a return down the sideline, taking the match and clinching the doubles point for the Tribe.
The Tribe found early success in the singles portion of the match, taking the first set in five of six matches. Leading the Tribe were Mesgarzadeh and Pop, who recorded straight-set victories in the No. 2 and No. 3 slots, respectively.
For Mesgarzadeh, who crafted an efficient 6-3, 6-0 victory, the victory marked her third consecutive straight-set win from the No. 2 position. Pop came back from a hamstring injury to record a solid 6-4, 6-3 win over Dominika Zaprazna for her team-leading 20th singles win this year.
After the Tribe collected two singles victories to go along with the doubles point, it only needed one of three remaining singles matches to sway the score in its favor.
Freshman Nina Vulovich, who cruised to a 6-0 first-set win behind solid serving and strong forehand winners, experienced an error-ridden second set, which she lost 6-1. Needing to reverse her fortune in the third and decisive set, the freshman fell behind early 2-1. But she battled back to a 6-4 victory, clinching the match victory for the Tribe.
“[Vulovich] clinching the match was really a confidence boost for her,” Geiger-Walton said.
The College’s top seed, Acharya, faced little resistance in her first set against the Thundering Herd’s Kissell, winning 6-1. The second set went into a tiebreaker, in which Acharya found match point. After a rally, a strong shot by Acharya forced Kissell into a weak return, which flailed out of bounds and gave the match to Acharya in straight sets, 6-1, 7-6 (4). She flung her racket in celebration and proceeded to shake hands with the Thundering Herd’s top player at the net.
With the victory, which was only the third singles loss of the year for the ranked Kissell, Acharya has now recorded 15 singles victories this year and 15 singles victories against ranked opponents in her career.
In the No. six position, Cepeda kept to the trend, recording a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Marshall’s Kristina Kopricina.
After winning its last five of six matches, the Tribe will try to stay hot when it takes on CAA foes Old Dominion and VCU next week, before finishing the season against Richmond on Saturday.
“This stretch of four matches in six days is going to be very demanding, physically,” Geiger-Walton said. “But I expect [the team] to be fired up for [Virginia Commonwealth].”