MERCER, Ga. -- Sophomore Carol Elizabeth Kerman topped Yunuen Elizarraras, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, at flight five singles to clinch the winning point as top-seeded Furman beat second-seeded ETSU, 4-2, to win the Southern Conference Championship Saturday at the John Drew Smith Tennis Center in Macon, Ga.
The title is the Paladins' third-consecutive and 19th overall. With the victory, Furman, which holds a 23-match winning streak, earns the SoCon's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, which will begin on campus sites May 3-6. The Paladins will learn their opponent during a live selection show on April 29 at 6:30 p.m.
In a replay of last year's championships, Furman (26-1, 7-0 SoCon) won the last doubles match in a tiebreaker to clinch the opening point. Kerman teamed with sophomore Georgie Walker to down Andrea Pascual-Larrinaga and Elizarraras, 6-4, at flight three, then Laylo Bakhodirova and Alejandra Morales defeated junior Katarina Kozarov and freshman Julia Adams, who are ranked 68th nationally, 6-4, in the top-seeded contest to even the slate. In the decisive flight two match, freshman Madison Dillon and senior Katty Weymouth slipped past Raquel Amaro and Yi Chi Ma, 7-6, to claim the point.
The Paladins stretched the lead to 2-0 when Kozarov, who ranks 78th nationally in singles, beat Bakhodirova, 6-2, 6-4, at flight one, but the Bucs (13-11, 6-1 SoCon) scored wins at flights three and four to even the score at 2-all. Pascual-Larrinaga outlasted Adams, 6-1, 7-5, at flight three, and Amaro recorded a 7-6, 6-4 advantage over Dillon at number four.
Furman regained the lead, 3-2, when Weymouth held off Morales, 7-6(7), 7-5, at flight four, then Kerman clinched the victory at number five.
The flight six match was unfinished. Chi Ma won set one, 6-2, over Walker, but Walker took the second set, 6-4.
The 2019 SoCon Player of the Year, Kozarov, a native of Novi Sad, Serbia, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Walker was the recipient of the Pinnacle Award, which is given to the student-athlete with the highest GPA on the championship-winning team.
"ETSU came out and played a phenomenal match today, and I am so proud of our team for the composure they showed in what was a hard-fought match," said Furman head coach Adam Herendeen. "This group has overcome so much adversity all year, and it really showed when it mattered most. This team is so deserving of all that it has accomplished, and we still have more we hope to accomplish at NCAAs!"
Julie Paré, Furman Sports Information
#50 Furman 4, ETSU 2
Apr 20, 2019 at Macon, Ga. (John Drew Smith Tennis Center)
1. #78 Katarina Kozarov (FUR) def. Laylo Bakhodirova (ETSU) 6-2, 6-4
2. Katty Weymouth (FUR) def. Alejandra Morales (ETSU) 7-6 (9-7), 7-5
3. A. Pascual-Larrinaga (ETSU) def. Julia Adams (FUR) 6-1, 7-5
4. Raquel Amaro (ETSU) def. Madison Dillon (FUR) 7-6 (7-4), 6-4
5. Carol Eliz. Kerman (FUR) def. Yunuen Elizarraras (ETSU) 6-1, 2-6, 6-3
6. Georgie Walker (FUR) vs. Yi Chi Ma (ETSU) 2-6, 6-4, unfinished
3. Carol Eliz. Kerman/Georgie Walker (FUR) def. A. Pascual-Larrinaga/Yunuen Elizarraras (ETSU) 6-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (1,4,3,2,5)