Alannah Griffin (above) is shown in action during NCAA Tournament competition.
Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn women’s tennis team made school history on Saturday by advancing to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, but team members say they are not satisfied with that as they prepare to travel to the nationals in Tulsa, Okla.
On Thursday at 9 a.m. they will attempt to advance to the Elite Eight round, but face a major road block with defending national champion Vanderbilt waiting for the Tigers in Tulsa. However, that is just fine with one of Auburn’s players, freshman Alannah Griffin, who plays in the No. 4 singles spot and No. 2 doubles.
During a regular season dual match in Nashville, the Tigers were on the verge of upsetting Vanderbilt, but Griffin’s opponent rallied against her in the third set to pull out a 4-3 win for the Commodores and keep alive a homecourt winning streak that is up to 37.
“I?can’t even explain to you how much it hurt to lose that match being up 4-1 in the third against the national champions,” Griffin said. “I am so ready for my revenge now. I know the way I?have got to play to beat that girl and I know we can beat Vanderbilt. I know it.”
The Tigers defeated Alcorn State 4-0 and Arizona State 4-2 to advance to the Sweet 16. The team has set a school record for most wins in a season and takes a 24-7 record and No. 11 ranking to Tulsa where the Tigers will take on a Vandy team that is 21-5 and ranked No. 6 nationally.
“We proved ourselves last time so I have just got to get in the right place mentally,” Griffin said of the rematch vs. the Commodores. “I want it so badly. I am ready--bring it on.”
Commenting on the rematch, senior Pleun Burgmans, who plays No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles for the Tigers, said she is looking forward to it, too. “Last time we were right there with them. I think we might not have believed we could beat them last time. Now we know we are actually there and we are really excited to see what we can do.”
Pleun Burgmans holds the school record for most combined victories in singles and doubles.
Coach Lauren Spencer said the Tigers are going to try to keep their same routine in match preparation to avoid adding “stress” to the players as they try to make school history once again this season.
“The fact that we are playing a familiar SEC opponent, and that we played them close, is going to be good for us,” Spencer said. “It is something we are very excited about.
“We have had a lot of big moments this year,” the coach added. “I am cautiously optimistic about how they will handle this because of so many moments.”
Spencer noted that she has enjoyed coaching this season’s team. “I am really proud of them,” she said. “They really deserve this opportunity because it hasn’t been easy. They have really, really worked hard from the moment they set foot on campus in the fall.”