CHATTANOOGA, TENN. -- Sophomore Katarina Kozarov, the 2018 Southern Conference Player of the Year, beat Alory Pereira, 7-5, 6-4, at flight one singles to clinch the winning point as top-seeded Furman beat second-seeded ETSU, 4-1, to win the Southern Conference Championship Sunday at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The title is the Paladins' second-consecutive and 18th overall. Furman, which holds a 13-match winning streak, earns the SoCon's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, which will begin on campus sites May 11-12. The Paladins will learn their opponent during a live selection show on May 1 at 5 p.m.
Furman (20-8, 7-0 SoCon) won in a tiebreaker at flight one doubles to take the opening point. The Bucs' Alejandra Morales and Andrea Pascual-Larrinaga took an early 6-4 victory over freshman Carol Elizabeth Kerman and senior Gabby Rodriguez at flight three, then Paladin junior Katty Weymouth and sophomore Danni Vines answered with a 6-4 victory over Yi Chi Ma and Melissa Esguerra at flight two. In the decisive flight one match, Kozarov and senior Aryn Greene topped Pereira and Ioanna Markesini, 7-6(4), for the point.
The Bucs' Markesini tied the match at 1-apiece with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Weymouth at flight two singles, but Furman scored quick wins at flights three and five to push the lead to 3-1. Walker outlasted Esguerra, 6-0, 7-5, at number five, then Vines beat Pascual-Larrinaga, 6-2, 6-3, at number three, before Kozarov clinched the team victory.
Matches at flights four and six were unfinished. Morales led Kerman, 4-2, in the third set at flight four, and Rodriguez won the first set over Chi Ma, 7-5, at flight six and held a 4-3 lead in set two.
Vines, a native of Elizabethton, Tenn., was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive year. Vines was also the recipient of the Pinnacle Award, which is given to the student-athlete with the highest GPA on the championship-winning team.
"That was an incredible match," said Furman head coach Adam Herendeen. "We have been playing better and better as the year has gone on, but we knew we had another level that we could get to, and we definitely got there today. We have a lot of respect for this ETSU team, but our girls played their best match of the year today, and I could not be more proud of them. They have had to overcome so much adversity and just keep stepping up to the challenge."
Julie Paré, Furman Sports Information
Furman 4, ESTU 1
Apr 22, 2018 at Chattanooga, Tenn. (McCallie School)
1. Katarina Kozarov (FUR) def. Alory Pereira (ETSU) 7-5, 6-4
2. Ioanna Markesini (ETSU) def. Katty Weymouth (FUR) 6-2, 6-3
3. Danni Vines (FUR) def. A. Pascual-Larrinaga (ETSU) 6-2, 6-3
4. Carol Eliz. Kerman (FUR) vs. Alejandra Morales (ETSU) 6-4, 2-6, 2-4, unfinished
5. Georgie Walker (FUR) def. Melissa Esguerra (ETSU) 6-0, 7-5
6. Gabby Rodriguez (FUR) vs. Yi Chi Ma (ETSU) 7-5, 4-3, unfinished
3. Alejandra Morales/A. Pascual-Larrinaga (ETSU) def. Carol Eliz. Kerman/Gabby Rodriguez (FUR) 6-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (2,5,3,1)