Despite leading at one point in all six singles matches, Maryland women's tennis fell to Illinois, 5-2, at home on Sunday afternoon.
If you are a fan of tennis, this was a fun match to watch. Almost all of the singles matches were incredibly competitive. Illinois is a good team, and Maryland tested them. The Illini had to fight for every point, and in the end, the visitors rallied past the Terps (6-8, 3-2).
Arnelle Sullivan led 1-0 and was up 4-1 in the second set, but she fell apart. She couldn't recapture her pinpoint ball placement from the first set and ended up losing five straight games. She lost the third and final set in tiebreakers. It was the last match of the day and the outcome had already been decided, but it was still the best match of the day.
Three things to know
1. Maryland's chances at making the NCAA Tournament are virtually nonexistent
Illinois was ranked 68th in the last ITA rankings, and the Terps really needed a win to push themselves up the rankings. Maryland will probably need to run the table in order to make it into the top 60. That means beating No. 9 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State. That scenario has close to no chance of happening, so Maryland probably won't be heading to the NCAA Tournament this season.
2. Maryland had a chance to win
Illinois won the doubles point easily, but the Terps were winning on all six courts during the first sets. Arnelle Sullivan was rolling, Cassandre Thebault was imposing her will early on in her match, Kristina Hovsepyan was playing with confidence and Alexandra Stanova wasn't hurting herself with unforced errors. That all changed.
The small leads that Hovsepyan and Thebault were holding onto evaporated and both lost their first sets in tiebreakers. Both lost their second set by 6-2 margins. Stanova had no margin for error, but she couldn't keep Louise Kwong at bay. Her unforced errors undid all of the work she was doing on the court. Sullivan's collapse in the second set and loss in tiebreakers in the third set was a microcosm of Maryland's day.
3. Arnelle Sullivan has a potential to be a star at Maryland
This season, Sullivan came in and started at No. 1 singles as a true freshman. That just isn't something that happens in Division I tennis. When she's on, she's ON. She's incredibly fun to watch, and her confidence level was through the roof in the first set. She was hurt a little earlier in the season, and she's playing No. 2 singles now. She has been one of the few bright spots in this otherwise pedestrian year for Maryland. By the time she's done in College Park, she'll be an extremely good player.