LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Dropping the doubles point put the Saint Mary's women's tennis team in an early hole but the Gaels were up to the task in singles as they rallied for a 4-2 win over No. 58-ranked Utah in the first round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekened at Marks Tennis Stadium.
The victory kicked off Saint Mary's dual match season with a win and gives the No. 37 Gaels a 1-0 record heading into Saturday's match against either USC or North Texas. It was also Utah's dual opener, and the Utes stand at 0-1 to begin the season.
The first result of the day actually went Saint Mary's way, with the No. 1 doubles duo of Jenny Jullien and Parminder Kaur earning a 6-3 win over Tereza Bekerova and Paige Miles. That was the only doubles win the Gaels got, as Utah won at No. 3 to even things up and then pulled off a big comeback at No. 2 to secure the point.
Conceding the first point didn't rattle Saint Mary's, and it didn't take long for the Gaels to square the match at 1-all. Continuing her strong start to the season, Jullien made short work of No. 107-ranked Bekerova at No. 1 singles as the No. 7 player in the country won 6-3, 6-1 to pull Saint Mary's back into a tie.
A straight-sets win by Sarah Pham at No. 2 put Utah back in front, but that lead was also short-lived. Making her Saint Mary's dual debut in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, Jamie Pawid continued her run of hot play, defeating Callie Craig 6-3, 6-4 to tie the team score at 2. Pawid went 3-0 at last weekend's Cal Winter Invitational to earn Muscle Milk SMC Student-Athlete of the Week honors.
That left three matches on court, and in all three matches Saint Mary's had dropped the first set. Again though, the Gaels had fight left in them as Danielle Flores, Catherine Leduc and Jade Frampton each battled back to win the second and force a decisive third set super-tiebreaker.
Saint Mary's lone Utah native would be the one to give the Gaels their first lead of the day. Locked in a dead heat with Luisa Gerstner Da Rosa at No. 5, Frampton kept fighting and ultimately turned the tide, defeating Da Rosa 13-11 in the third set to finish a marathon victory.
Leduc would wrap up the day's proceedings with a slightly less dramatic score but an equally satisfying victory. She finished off Paige Miles with a 10-6 win in the third set to clinch the victory and send Saint Mary's on to Saturday's final round.
""I'm happy with the way the girls rallied after losing the doubles point," Saint Mary's coach Lisa Alipaz said. "We had a couple really tough singles matches and Jade and Catou did a great job to pull those out. We'll have to play better tomorrow if we want to beat either USC or North Texas, but it's good to start the season with a win."
On Saturday, the Gaels will play either No. 6-ranked USC or No. 60 North Texas. The Trojans and Mean Green played after the conclusion of Saint Mary's match on Friday, with the winner advancing to meet the Gaels. Saturday's match is scheduled for 5 p.m.