Pitt falls in first round of ACC Tournament


Alex Mowrey

Photo Courtesy of Pitt Athletics

Pitt women’s tennis struggled to put up a fight against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first round of the ACC Women’s Tennis Tournament.

Pitt traveled down to Cary, North Carolina, to face off against No. 57 Notre Dame, suffering an early exit in the ACC tournament.. After defeating Pitt, Notre Dame will battle No. 28 Clemson University in the tournament Thursday, April 21.

“I think by now we are used to this competition,” Pitt head coach Alex Santos said. “Every match we have to bring it.”

While the loss ends the Panthers’ season, the younger players on the team are looking toward the future.

“Unfortunately we lost, but I’m excited I have three more seasons at Pitt,” freshman Gabriela Rezende said.

This loss comes after Pitt (7-13, 1-13 ACC) fell in its final regular season match of the year to No. 57 Florida State (13-12, 4-10 ACC). This season, the team experienced more success than in the past. While the record may seem unflattering, all 13 of the team’s defeats came against nationally ranked opponents, while going 6-0 in non-conference play.

The Panthers came into the tournament seeded at No. 14, and the team realized that they would have to fortify themselves physically to compete in the ACC next year.

“I think we need to be more tough on the court,” Rezende said.

The last time Pitt faced Notre Dame, Pitt suffered a close defeat from the then-ranked No. 33 Fighting Irish. Since the last time the teams met back on Feb. 12, Notre Dame has fallen in the ranks to No. 57.

In this match, the Panthers started off by conceding the doubles point to the Fighting Irish, after both the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles pairs lost to Notre Dame’s duos.

“We had a very good fight,” Santos said.

Afterward, the singles matches followed suit. In the No. 1 singles match, Pitt’s Lolade Ogungbesan fell to Notre Dame’s Quinn Gleason. No. 48 Gleason took the first two sets, 6-2 and 6-1.

“They were winning points off of our mistakes,” Rezende said.

Soon after, Notre Dame’s Brooke Broda defeated Pitt’s Rezende in the No. 5 singles match. Broda also won this match in two sets.

Notre Dame scored its winning point in the No. 3 singles match when No. 107 Allison Miller of the Fighting Irish defeated Pitt’s Callie Frey, also in two sets.

Redshirt junior Amber Washington says that in order for improved results next season, the Panthers don’t need any more talent.

“The tennis is all there,” Washington said. “We just need to work at overcoming adversity.”

This first-round loss displays the strong competition in Pitt’s conference. In the ACC, the Panthers faced tough competitors, as every team in the conference ranks in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 75. Pitt’s only win in the conference occurred against the University of Louisville back in February, when the Panthers bested the Cardinals 5-2.

“I feel like there’s no point in playing if you don’t play with the best or want to play with the best,” Washington said.

Despite the team’s challenges in the ACC,  Washington ended the season in strong form.

Coming into this match, Washington ended her season continuing her hot streak. Washington ended the season by winning seven matches in a row, bringing her record on the seasons to 26-8. That gives her the best record of anyone on the team this season, and the third-best overall in Pitt program history.

Washington said that the successful string of matches helped her mind-set heading into the match, regardless of the result.

“It definitely gave me confidence,” Washington said about her winning streak leading up the ACC tournament.

Playing at No. 4 singles in the tournament matchup against Notre Dame, Washington could not carry on the momentum. She was unable to finish her match — before it ended Notre Dame had already secured enough points to knock Pitt from the tournament — but dropped her first set to Notre Dame’s Mary Closs.

Even with the first-round departure, the team remains confident that improvement will occur next season.

“You can only get better,” Washington said. “You can’t get worse.”