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Furman Beats ETSU, 4-2, To Win 2017 Southern Conference Championship

2017 Southern Conference Champions
2017 Southern Conference Champions

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Rookie Danni Vines, the 2017 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, topped Alory Pereira, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, to clinch the winning point as No. 1 Furman beat No. 2 ETSU, 4-2, to win the SoCon Championship Sunday at the Mickel Tennis Center in Greenville, S.C. 

The title is the Paladins' 17th overall and first since 2008.  Furman, which boasts a 16-match winning streak and has won 18 of its last 19 matches, earns the SoCon's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, which will begin on campus sites May 12-13.  The Paladins will learn their opponent during a live selection show on May 2 at 5:30 p.m.

Furman (23-5, 7-0 SoCon) won two of three doubles matches to claim the first point.  Freshman Katarina Kozarov and senior Blair Martin downed Jayde Viccars and Melissa Esguerra, 6-3, at flight three, then Marina Espana and Ioanna Markesini evened the slate with a 6-2 victory versus junior Aryn Greene and senior Ansley Speaks at number one.  In the decisive flight two match, sophomore Katty Weymouth and Vines, who was honored as the SoCon Tournament MVP, built a 5-4 lead before ETSU's Alory Pereira and Yi Chi Ma tied the match and eventually forced a tiebreaker at 6-all.  The Paladins won the tiebreaker, 7-2, to take the opening point.

The Bucs tied the score at 1-all when Markesini defeated Weymouth, 6-2, 6-2, at flight two to open singles play.  After dropping the first set, Kozarov battled back for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 advantage over Pereira at number three to give Furman a 3-2 advantage.

Matches at flights one and four went to a third set, and Speaks, who was honored with the 2017 SoCon Pinnacle Award for holding the highest GPA on the championship team, came alive in the final set to beat Espana, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-0, handing Espana her first loss of her career and pushing the Paladin lead to 3-1.  Minutes later, Vines clinched the match with the win at flight three.  Greene's match at flight six was unfinished, with Greene leading Viccars, 3-1, in the first set.

"Wow, that was an incredible match by both teams," said Furman head coach Adam Herendeen, who was honored as the 2017 Southern Conference Coach of the Year.  "I am so proud of each one of our players for how they battled and kept responding to when the pressure was on.  We have worked really hard on our fitness all year, and winning all three third sets to clinch the match shows just how tough this group is.  Coach Christine Johnston did an incredible job of helping Ansley and Danni through those matches simultaneously for us to clinch the win.  We want to thank all our fans, administrators, and support staff for making this a special weekend for our team, and we are so excited to represent Furman in the NCAA tournament!"

Julie Paré, Furman Sports Information

Furman 4, East Tennessee State 2
Apr 23, 2017 at Greenville, S.C. (Mickel Tennis Center) 

Singles competition

1. Ansley Speaks (FUR) def. Marina Espana (ETSU) 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-0

2. Ioanna Markesini (ETSU) def. Katty Weymouth (FUR) 6-2, 6-2

3. Danni Vines (FUR) def. Alory Pereira (ETSU) 6-3, 5-7, 6-4

4. Katarina Kozarov (FUR) def. Yi Chi Ma (ETSU) 3-6, 6-1, 6-3

5. Melissa Esguerra (ETSU) def. Hannah Ferrett (FUR) 6-0, 6-0

6. Aryn Greene (FUR) vs. Jayde Viccars (ETSU) 3-1, unfinished

Doubles competition

1. Marina Espana/Ioanna Markesini (ETSU) def. Aryn Greene/Ansley Speaks (FUR) 6-2

2. Katty Weymouth/Danni Vines (FUR) def. Alory Pereira/Yi Chi Ma (ETSU) 7-6 (7-2)

3. Katarina Kozarov/Blair Martin (FUR) def. Jayde Viccars/Melissa Esguerra (ETSU) 6-3

Match Notes

East Tennessee State 14-6, 6-1 SoCon

Furman 23-5, 7-0 SoCon

Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (2,4,5,1,3)