Women’s Tennis upsets No. 40 Iowa in thrilling fashion


DePaul Athletics

Graduate student Lenka Antonijevic won a tie breaker in her third set against Iowa’s Barbora Pokorna on Tuesday.

“Let’s go DePaul” and “Demons” echoed throughout the XS courts on Tuesday afternoon, as the DePaul women’s tennis team walked-off No. 40 Iowa 4-3. 

Heading into the match, the Blue Demons were riding a two-game winning streak and were full of confidence. Yet the squad was unable to sustain its recent success early on.

In the doubles portion, Iowa struck first with the duo of freshman Pia Kranholdt and fifth-year senior Samantha Mannix beating DePaul junior Greta Carbone and her teammate, graduate student Maddie Yergler, 6-2.

In a back-and-forth affair with multiple games tied 40-40, freshman Hannah Smith and senior Yuliya KIzelbasheva fell just short by a score of 6-4.

Graduate student Lenka Antonijevic and sophomore Eleanor Nobbs were up 5-3 and tied 40-40 in their ninth set, but the match was never finished due to Iowa having already won 2-0.

“Before singles started, I reminded them about the controllables,” head coach Marisa Arce said. “All the non-tennis stuff, we need to make sure we’re doing to the best of our abilities. This allows our tennis to shine.”

In the singles competition, Carbone (6-3), Smith (6-4) and Nobbs (7-5) all won their first sets for DePaul. Carbone didn’t stop there, winning the second set in a dominant 6-0 fashion to put the Blue Demons on the board. Nobbs also won her match in straight sets (7-5, 6-2).

For the Hawkeyes, freshman Daianne Hayashida responded dominantly, beating DePaul graduate student Valentina Martin in straight sets (6-2, 6-0).

One of the most impressive matches of the day was on the first court. Kizelbasheva lost the first set 6-2 but immediately responded in kind, taking the second set 6-2. In the third set, she was able to outlast her opponent to win 6-2 and secure the match.

“After the first set I went behind the tarp to get my thoughts together,” Kizelbasheva said. “I told myself to just forget [it] and start over. The score was now 0-0 and I just needed to win two sets in a row.”

As DePaul and Iowa were tied 3-3, everything came down to the final match between Antonijevic and sophomore Barbora Pokorna. Antonijevic lost the first set 7-6, before coming back to win the second set 6-4.

The third set came down to the wire, with both players giving it their all. Halfway through Antonijevic’s third set, every other match had ended, and all eyes were on her and her adversary. Yet, the extra pressure didn’t faze Antonijevic.

“I love the feeling of everyone trusting and believing that I can win,” Antonijevic said. “I love playing for the public and audience. The best comes out of me.”

Neither was able to fully pull away from the other, but in the end, Antonijevic was able to outlast her opponent, winning 7-5. After letting out a loud roar of excitement, Antonijevic was mobbed by her teammates as they celebrated the walk-off victory. 

After a hard-earned Blue Demons point, chants of “all day” could be heard, rejuvenating the players.

“I feel so supported,” Antonijevic said. “Our opponents were getting so annoyed at our cheers and if we can get in their heads with just our chants, then we have the advantage.”

Kizelbasheva echoed her sentiments.

“Please keep talking and speaking to me,” Kizelbasheva said. “It makes my thoughts more focused. Coach always tells us ‘If we are feeling nervous, just be loud and cheer for others and give energy.’ If it’s loud it means everyone is fighting.”

DePaul (4-5) will be back in action on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Miracle Hill Tennis Center for a road matchup against Omaha (4-5) at 2 PM CT.