CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (April 22, 2023) – For the first time since 2016, the ETSU women’s tennis team rushed the court in celebration of a Southern Conference championship.
Roughly two hours after the ETSU men’s team celebrated another championship win, the ETSU women’s team started their own festivities as Daniela Rivera (Maturin, Venzuela) clinched the final point in a 4-0 victory over No. 1 seed Furman in the SoCon Championship Final on Saturday, hosted at Champions Club in Chattanooga, Tenn.
ETSU — who has competed in every SoCon women’s tennis championship final since returning to the league in 2015 — battled Furman in the title match for the sixth straight time. After five years of runner-up trophies, it was ETSU’s time to shine.
Following back-to-back 4-0 wins over No. 7 Western Carolina and No. 6 Wofford, the No. 2 seeded Bucs had the same mission against the defending champions. The first step in that mission was accomplished with two wins in the doubles portion. The all-conference tandem of Rivera and Maria Fernanda Carvajal (Queretaro, Mexico) started the day with a 6-0 sweep of Marissa Pennings and Ellie Schulson.
One court over, the top flight duo of Laylo Bakhodirova (Tashkent, Uzbekistan) and Mariya Shumeika (Minsk, Belarus) defeated the ITA’s No. 67 ranked doubles team — Jess Dawson and Sara Snyder — by a 6-2 final to clinch the doubles point.
With all the momentum, ETSU moved on to singles needing just three wins for the championship. Just one week removed from a heart-breaking loss to the Paladins in the regular season, ETSU avenged the final loss from that battle as Emilia Alfaro (Azul, Argentina) grabbed the first point with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 win over Jess Dawson on Court 4. Last Saturday in Greenville, S.C., Dawson defeated Alfaro in a three-set tiebreaker to clinch the regular season title for Furman, but that seemed to be a distant memory this weekend.
Moving to the top flight, ETSU’s next point came from Bakhodirova — the reigning SoCon Player of the Year — who cruised by Schulson by a 6-1, 6-2 final on Court 1. Bakhodirova also won the regular season match between the two with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-0 win in Greenville.
With a 3-0 lead, Bakhodirova, Alfaro and a collection of Buccaneer supporters moved over to Court 5, where Rivera had a 6-4 win in set one and was tied 4-4 in set two against Madison Dillon. Rivera excited the crowd moments later, taking the final two points of the set to clinch the match and the championship. Other players with matches in progress immediately joined their teammates on Court 5 and head coach Ricky Rojas was soaked by a cooler of ice in celebration.
Capping off the festivities, Rivera was named the women’s tennis tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Rivera won all three singles matches over Western Carolina, Wofford and Furman in straight sets, extending her singles win streak to 13 matches. She also won all three doubles matches alongside Carvajal, extending her doubles win streak to 10 matches.
Additionally, Bakhodirova was named the Pinnacle Award winner for women’s tennis, given to the student-athlete with the highest GPA on the championship-winning team. A management and marketing double-major, she boasts a 3.75 GPA.
With the win, the Bucs earned the SoCon’s automatic bid to the 2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships. The NCAA’s selection show is scheduled for Monday, May 1 at 6 p.m. The men’s selection show will follow at 6:30 p.m.
For the latest information on Buccaneer women’s tennis, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women’s tennis page.
1. Laylo Bakhodirova (ETSU) def. Ellie Schulson (FUR) 6-1, 6-2
2. Marissa Pennings (FUR) vs. Mariya Shumeika (ETSU) 6-3, 1-6, 0-3, unfinished
3. Sara Snyder (FUR) vs. Fernanda Carvajal (ETSU) 2-6, 6-3, 2-1, unfinished
4. Emilia Alfaro (ETSU) def. Jess Dawson (FUR) 6-1, 6-1
5. Daniela Rivera (ETSU) def. Madison Dillon (FUR) 6-4, 6-4
6. Luca Victoria Vocke (FUR) vs. Ralitsa Alexandrova (ETSU) 6-1, 5-5, unfinished
1. Laylo Bakhodirova/Mariya Shumeika (ETSU) def. #67 Jess Dawson/Sara Snyder (FUR) 6-2
2. Fernanda Carvajal/Daniela Rivera (ETSU) def. Marissa Pennings/Ellie Schulson (FUR) 6-0
3. Madison Dillon/Luca Victoria Vocke (FUR) vs. Emilia Alfaro/Ralitsa Alexandrova (ETSU) 5-1, unfinished
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (4,1,5)
SoCon Women’s Tennis Championship
Chattanooga, Tenn. – Champions Club
Thursday, April 20
Match 1: No. 1 Furman 4, No. 8 UNCG 0
Match 2: No. 4 Mercer 4, No. 5 Chattanooga 1
Match 3: No. 6 Wofford 4, No. 3 Samford 3
Match 4: No. 2 ETSU 4, No. 7 Western Carolina 0
Friday, April 21
Match 5: No. 1 Furman 4, No. 4 Mercer 2
Match 6: No. 2 ETSU 4, No. 6 Wofford 0
Saturday, April 22
Match 7: No. 2 ETSU 4, No. 1 Furman 0