CLEMSON — Romy Koelzer calls Clemson a “singles team,” and for that reason, says the Tigers remain confident even when they drop the doubles point to an opponent.
“But when we win it, oh my gosh, they better just go home,” she joked Friday.
Koelzer’s comment came shortly after Clemson made certain Eastern Kentucky does just that, eliminating the Colonels from the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships with a 5-0 sweep at the Hoke Sloan Tennis Center.
The Tigers were so dominating in their win, their 12th straight in NCAA first-round action, that perhaps the biggest challenge for the players was finishing quickly enough for their match to actually count.
The No. 1 doubles team of Yana Koroleva and Beatrice Gumulya was leading 7-2 in a pro-set and potentially just two points away from securing a victory when the No. 2 team of Koelzer and Tristen Dewar won 8-3 to clinch the doubles point and force a premature halt to the match on Court 1.
“We had told them in the locker room that we wanted to get on and off the court as quickly as possible,” Clemson head coach Nancy Harris said. “We didn’t know what the weather was going to do, and we didn’t really want to have to go indoors. So they just took care of business.”
For Koroleva, her singles match nearly ended in similarly unsatisfying fashion, as she was ahead 6-1, 5-2 on her opponent at No. 1 singles and on her fourth match point when Dewar won her match at No. 6 singles to clinch the team competition.
Since Koroleva was on match point, which she won, she was allowed to finish off the victory and give the Tigers a 5-0 win, even though only four victories are required.
She admitted afterward she had extra incentive to finish early — especially since the start was delayed from 1 p.m. to 2:05 because the opening match of the regional, No. 2 seed Vanderbilt’s 4-0 win over Indiana, ran long.
“There’s a Starbucks Frappuccino Happy Hour now, and it only goes from 3-5 (p.m.), so I wanted to make that,” Koroleva joked afterward.
With the victory, Clemson is now 9-0 this season when claiming the doubles point, while it is just 6-7 otherwise.
“I think it was really big for us because we haven’t won very many doubles points this whole season,” Koelzer said. “We’ve tried to figure out who can play the best with who, and I think the combinations that we have now are really good.”
Clemson (15-7) has used 15 different doubles teams throughout the season, but like Koelzer noted, it seems to have settled on a lineup that works.
The sophomore from Germany and her partner, Dewar, made quick work of Eastern Kentucky’s Saioa Oscoz and Milena Poffo on Friday.
“Tristen and I figured it out pretty quickly that we needed to just not hit too fast and put it in play, and they made errors,” Koelzer said.
Harris said she believed the key to the current doubles lineup has been the work of Koroleva and Gumulya, who are 8-1 as a tandem this season — the most wins by any Tiger duo — even though they weren’t able to add to that victory total Friday.
“I really like Yana and Bea leading at one,” Harris said. “I think they set the standard for the two and the three. They’re very solid, and they have fun playing together.”
Koroleva and Gumulya are not only doubles partners on the court, but they are also roommates off it, which the No. 16-ranked singles player in the country said helped their on-court chemistry.
“We have been living together since our first day (at Clemson),” Koroleva said, “and even though we’re from different worlds basically — she’s from Indonesia; I’m from Russia — we get along really well. We understand each other really well on the court too.”
The Tigers have excelled in singles play, recording a 76.6 winning percentage in ACC singles matches, and Harris knows if they can continue to play doubles the way they did Friday, her team will have an excellent shot at advancing to next week’s Round of 16 at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, Ill.
“I think (the doubles point) is going to be huge (against Vanderbilt),” she said. “Now I think we’ve got six great singles players, and I believe even if we lost the doubles point, we could win it with our singles. But it sure makes life a lot easier if you only have to win three singles.”