Pitt tennis team holds off Duquesne


Alex Mowrey

Natsumi Okamoto, pictured playing against UNC last year, teamed up with teammate Gabriela Rezende to win in a doubles match Saturday. Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics

By David Leftwich | Staff Writer

Rebounding after a tough 6-1 loss to Notre Dame Jan. 29, the Pitt women’s tennis team narrowly defeated hometown rival Duquesne Saturday at the Alpha Tennis and Fitness Center.

The Panthers came out of the gates with strong play in the doubles portion of the match. At the No. 3 position, sophomores Natsumi Okamoto and Gabriela Rezende crushed their opponents 6-0. Concurrently on court two, senior Audrey Ann Blakely and sophomore Clara Lucas made quick work of their opponents, capturing a 6-3 win.

Entering the single portion with an early 1-0 lead in the match, play between the two teams evened out.

In the first singles match of the day, Lucas lost 6-2, 6-1, allowing the Dukes back into the meet and tying the score at one apiece. Rezende kept up her dominating play from the doubles court and defeated her opponent 6-3, 6-1— earning her 12th win of the season. Duquesne bounced back, defeating Okamoto 6-4, 6-3 at the No. 6 singles position to tie up the dual, 2-2.

From the No. 4 singles position, Callie Frey recaptured the lead for the Panthers with a dramatic win. The Pitt junior dominated Duquesne’s Aishwarya Kona early on in the match and took the first set easily, 6-3. In the second set, Frey had to battle back from an early deficit. Eventually tying up the set at four apiece, Frey seized the next two games to take the set 6-4 and give the Panthers a 3-2 lead as a team.

Redshirt senior Amber Washington competed next for the Panthers at the No. 1 spot with the dual on the line.

Initially, Duquesne’s Kylie Isaacs throttled Washington in the first set, losing 6-1. Washington responded by going on the offensive to beat Isaacs 6-1 in the second set.

In the decisive third set, Washington and Isaacs went to the wire. Jumping out to an early 5-2 lead, the match looked to be in Washington’s grasp. But Isaacs quickly turned things around and won four straight games to take the lead in the set, 6-5.

With the match and team dual in the balance, Washington won the next game to force a tiebreak. From there, Washington won 7-3 to earn the Panthers their meet-clinching victory.

Since the Panthers already won the required four matches for victory, the final match had no impact on the team’s performance. Nevertheless, Pitt and Duquesne went through with the morning’s final fixture as Pitt’s Ann Blakely fell 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1 to give Duquesne its third victory of the dual and finalize the Panther win at 4-3.

Looking to carry momentum from this match, the Panthers will face rival Penn State at University Park Feb. 12, at 1 p.m.