Following the Nebraska women’s tennis team’s second-consecutive 11-win season, the team returned to the court this weekend to open its fall schedule in the Drake Invite.
The event, held on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, featured nine programs with competition in singles and doubles running from Friday to Sunday. Nebraska sent junior Samantha Alicea, sophomores Chloe Kuckelman and Vivien Sandberg and freshmen Lucy Loy and Jillian Roa to compete.
On the whole, the Huskers fared extremely well over the weekend, particularly in singles play. Nebraska went a combined 15-3 in singles, and even that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Kuckelman and Roa both landed in Flight One, one of four 16-player brackets set up at the invitational.The two were on opposite sides of the bracket and would have only met in the championship match.
Both reached that point in decisive fashion.
Kuckelman won her first two matches in straight sets, setting up a semifinal matchup with South Dakota senior Habiba Aly on Friday. In a thrilling back-and-forth match, Kuckelman emerged victorious in a 10-8 third set to reach the final.
There, she met Roa, who handled her opponents in convincing fashion. All of Roa’s singles matches were decided in straight sets, including her championship defeat to Kuckelman. Roa reached the final by defeating Creighton senior Sarah Wilcox, 6-2, 6-0.
The all-Nebraska final went the way of Kuckelman, but she wasn’t the only Husker to reach that decisive point. Alicea, much like Kuckleman, handled her first two opponents in Flight Two with ease before running into more difficulty.
On Saturday, Alicea faced North Dakota junior Nina Zdravkovic with a place in the championship on the line. Alicea and Zdravkovic traded dominant victories in sets one and two, but Alicea dominated the final set 10-1 to reach the final against Drake freshman Mille Haagensen.
Haagensen was unable to bring home a championship on her home court, but she fell in a valiant battle. Alicea took the first set in a tiebreaker, then Haagensen stormed back to take the second set 6-1. The Arizona State transfer then pulled out an epic 12-10 victory in the final set to bring home another championship for the Huskers.
Sandberg, in Flight Two for singles play, withdrew from play due to injury. Loy reached the semifinals of Flight Three, but fell to Creighton freshman Siri Kongara in the semifinals. She rebounded, however, winning third place over Drake sophomore Darinka Stepan.
Nebraska fared well in doubles play as well. Kuckelman and Alicea went 2-1, and Sandberg and Roa went 1-1. Following Sandberg’s injury, Loy stepped in, and she and Roa won their match on Saturday. The Huskers did not win any championships in doubles, but posting an above .500 record as a team is encouraging.
Next up, Nebraska takes the court for the Milwaukee Tennis Classic from Sept. 18 through 20. The Huskers have five events remaining on their fall calendar, which concludes with regionals in late October.