By (Ben Boynton)

With three matches left in singles play against Northwestern, the Alabama women’s tennis team found itself tied 2-2. All three of the matches would go to a third set, with the Crimson Tide needing to win at least two to claim a team victory.

Sophomore Aryn Greene won her first set and rallied to force a competitive second set before dropping it. Junior Erin Routliffe had a similar sequence of events unfold, winning the first set decisively before falling in the second set.

Junior Danielle Spielmann, however, took a very different path to her third set.

Spielmann lost her first set 2-6, with a score that did not accurately reflect her performance. She saw five games that featured a deuce point and lost four of them. That kind of result can be discouraging, and Spielmann got off to a slow start in her second set that ended up with her down 4-5 and facing the wrong side of a match point. Normally, that might have a player feeling down about their play. Not Spielmann.

“I felt like I was right there, and I felt like I was dictating play,” Spielmann said. “I told myself that points were going to come. I just played one point at a time and waited for my chances.”

Spielmann won that match point to keep herself alive, and went on to win the second set 7-5 before breezing to a 6-1 third set victory. From that match point on, she won nine of the remaining 10 games.

“She [Spielmann] kept chipping away and fighting,” said coach Jenny Mainz. “You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. Credit to her for being steadfast and not going away.”

That toughness late in matches is something that coach Jenny Mainz has preached to her team recently, and it’s something that she is pleased to see when they compete.

“Alabama showed a tremendous amount of tenacity, character, resilience, and grit,” Mainz said. “It’s going to require that every time out, and we’re well equipped to deal with it, we just have to stay the course and be prepared to give that amount of effort and energy every time out.”

Mainz said the team has been videoing matches and playing more in practice to try and hone a competitive edge, especially since the team has only played six matches thus far. Part of that edge includes not folding under pressure, and trying to play normal tennis in pressure situations.

“In the third set there is a lot of nerves,” Routliffe said. “I just try to get away from the nerves by focusing on my game like hitting my serves, and picking my plays and running them so I can think more about how to win each point rather than the set.”

Alabama needs all the experience playing in tough situations it can get, as it moves close to the end of non-conference season. Once the Crimson Tide hits SEC play, a stacked lineup of some of the top teams in the country awaits it.

Before that, the Crimson Tide will find tough opponents in the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Alabama on February 26. The field includes teams like No. 10 Pepperdine and a No. 11 Oklahoma State team that has already beaten Alabama 4-1 this year. Match times and opponents will be released later.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports