In one of the toughest home matches this season, Arizona State sophomore Stephanie Vlad battled through three sets on the No. 1 court to capture a victory, and propel the No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils (18-4; Pac-12 5-2) women's tennis team ahead of the University of Utah, 4-2, on Saturday afternoon at the Whiteman Tennis Center in Tempe, Ariz.
The win over Utah also marked the completion of a perfect home schedule for ASU. The Sun Devils did not fall on the losing side of a decision once this season, powering through 14 matches in Tempe. In seven of those matches Arizona State blanked their opponent while on the path to victory.
"I thought we battled well, it was a good win," ASU head coach Sheila McInerney said. "Utah is a good team and they compete really well. Credit to our kids for going undefeated at home, which is not an easy thing to do...quite honestly, I don't know if we've ever done that."
Although Utah ended on the losing side of the match, the Utes held the upper hand going into singles play with a one point lead from doubles competition.
ASU's Kassidy Jump and Leighann Sahagun fell to Sarah Richter and Luisa Gerster of Utah, 8-2, in the first completed match of the morning on the No. 2 doubles court. Utah's Tereza Bekerova and Paige Miles just barely squeaked passed Desirae Krawczyk and Alexandra Osborne 8-7 on the No. 1 doubles court to earn the second needed win and claim the overall point.
At that point, Ebony Panoho and Stephanie Vlad were forced to abandon their match on the third doubles court, leading Callie Craig and Sarah Pham of Utah 7-4.
Then the Pac-12 Network cameras went live for the first time ever in Tempe. And Arizona State had to show a nationwide audience whether or not they could back up their impressive record and battle out of the hole.
Arizona State picked up four wins in singles play, including a match winning three set performance from Vlad on the main stage, which forced her to battle back from a 3-6 stumble in the second set.
"It's a big day for us, we had the Pac-12 network here filming, and I certainly think they saw a great match," McInerney said. "After losing doubles, to come back and to win singles and win the way we did with Stephanie (Vlad) winning in the third was pretty great."
Vlad, who struggled with serves on and off throughout the day, knew that her match could play a huge part in the final outcome and mustered enough stamina to go point for point with her opponent until one of them broke down.
"I knew it was going to either come down to Kassidy's (Jump) match or my match, so I didn't want to blow the lead," Stephanie Vlad said.
With her teammates standing by and a large crowd cheering her on, Vlad picked up six games first and defeated Tereza Bekerova 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, to capture the overall match victory.
The last two games of that set, I just tried hitting everything with my forehand and you could see that it broke down her backhand," the sophomore said fresh off a nationally televised post-match interview.
Leading up to Vlad's impressive win, Leighann Sahagun quickly exited the No. 4 court topping Sarah Richter 6-1, 6-2 and tying up the match at one all.
From there, Utah's Paige Miles topped Ebony Panoho in two identical sets, 6-4, 6-4.
And once again, Utah held the lead -- but it wasn't for long.
On the No. 2 court, sophomore Desirae Krawczyk defeated Sarah Pham 6-4, 6-4, and Gussie O'Sullivan took care of business on the No. 6 court, trumping Luisa Gerstner Da Rosa 6-1, 6-2, giving Arizona State the 3-2 lead.
At that point, Kassidy Jump was trailing Callie Craig 4-2 in the third set. She had easily defeated the Ute 6-1 in the first, and fell 6-4 in the second. But across the way she could hear the cheers of the crowd for her teammate on the first court, signaling the end of the match.
"Cailley Craig has been doing that at Utah for years now," McInerney said. "She really makes you play a lot of balls. Kassidy won the first set easy and we knew going forward it wasn't going to be that easy. That's just tennis."
The Sun Devils have three opponents left on their regular season lineup. USC, UCLA and Arizona are the only teams standing between Arizona State and the Pac-12 tournament. With USC scheduled for Friday and UCLA slated for Saturday, McInerney and her squad know that some of their toughest and most important competition will come in the next two weeks.
"I think we're feeling pretty good about ourselves going into USC and UCLA. Both matches will be difficult, but for this group to have the record that we have is amazing quite frankly," McInerney said. "All credit to them and like I said, it was a nice win for us today."
10:30 a.m. MST