No. 1 UNF Survives Upset Bid From No. 4 Stetson

Saturday, April 21, 2012

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The top-seeded North Florida Ospreys got all they could handle and then some in Saturday’s Atlantic Sun Championship semifinals, withstanding a furious rally from No. 4 Stetson, 4-2, at the Buddy Hartsell Tennis Center.

UNF (15-4, 9-0 A-Sun) led the match 3-0 and with Melanie Aguirre serving for the finals on court four, before Stetson’s (14-7, 6-3 A-Sun) Diana Bukajeva broke serve to ignite the Hatters’ lineup which brought the score to within 3-2. With the No. 3 and No. 6 matches each on serve in their respective third sets, suddenly the Ospreys found themselves on the brink of what would have been the wrong side of one of the largest comebacks in A-Sun postseason history. Thankfully for the Championship’s No. 1 seed, Danielle Day pulled through in a third set tiebreak 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1).

The win sets up North Florida’s third-consecutive meeting with No. 2 and host ETSU in Sunday’s final, which is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. The two sides of split their last two championship meetings, with ETSU earning the shutout last year and North Florida winning 4-1 in 2010. During the 2012 regular season, UNF welcomed ETSU to Jacksonville, Fla., and sent the Bucs back with their first loss of the conference season, 6-1.

Although the Ospreys took the doubles point from Stetson, they suffered their first set loss of the season to an A-Sun opponent. Bukajeva and Jen Miller defeated Rebeca Pereira and Simona Weymar 8-5 in the No. 2 match, after each of UNF’s three doubles pairs went 9-0 during 2012 conference play.

A-Sun Player of the Year Aline Berkenbrock and First Team All-Conference selection Lorena Aviles avenged the loss, evening the doubles series with an 8-3 putdown of Sara Lazarevic and MayaBlue Stauffer-MacDowell. It all came down to the No. 3 match, where Day and Aguirre put the Ospreys on top by defeating Shannon Gunning and LIdsey Cable 8-6.

The beginning stages of singles action showed all the signs of a quick outing, as four Ospreys won their respective first sets. Berkenbrock quickly silenced Lazarevic on the top court 6-0, 6-1, before Aviles gave up just one game to Gunning 6-1, 6-0 on court two, putting UNF up 3-0 and ahead in matches No. 4 and 5.

After Aguirre was unable to serve out the match at No. 4, what once seemed like a lopsided UNF victory turned into a 4-hour and 25-minute ordeal which had all the makings of a massive comeback. Cable recovered from her first set to earn Stetson’s first point 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 against Weymar at No. 5, and Bukajeva finished off Aguirre in three sets 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. The Ospreys were on their heels at 2-2 in the third set on court six and a final set tiebreak on court three, when Day dominated the breaker to the relief of the UNF faithful.

Marina Cunningham and Miller were left unfinished, on serve in the third set with Cunningham leading 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 3-2.

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The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region:Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.