OMAHA, NEB. - The UNI Panthers upset the Indiana State Sycamores in the quarterfinal round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championships Friday, 4-3. Freshman Jessica Kunzelmann won the deciding match in No. 4 singles in three sets to propel UNI into the semifinal round. The Panthers, the No. 7 seed, eliminated the No. 2 seed Sycamores from tournament play with the win.
The Panthers got off to a strong start, earning the doubles point after defeating the Sycamores in two of the three matches. Junior Sampada Kanade and sophomore Diana Mendez defeated Sarah Meghoufel and Elmine Botes in No. 1 doubles, 8-5. The Panther duo, who recently were named MVC Scholar-Athletes, currently hold a 10-12 record.
Indiana State's No. 2 doubles pair, Sofya Lifanova and Anna Morgina, topped Laia Gonzalez-Garrido and Phoebe Walker in the second and final match held in doubles competition.
The Panthers' Taynara Moraes and Jessica Kunzelmann were awarded the win at the No. 3 spot as ISU was forced to forfeit the match due to a shortage of athletes. Moraes, a senior, continues her Panther career with 69 total doubles victories, making her sixth all-time on the UNI record list.
Indiana State found success in the top half of singles competition to tighten up the score, winning No 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles. However, the Sycamores were forced to forfeit their matches at the No. 5 and No. 6 spots due to a lack of athletes, putting the Panthers up 3-0 coming into singles play.
Meghoufel (No. 1) topped Walker, 6-3, 6-1. Walker will continue her impressive freshman campaign tomorrow with a 14-9 overall record in dual-match singles, competing mostly at the No. 1 position during the conference season.
UNI's Gonzalez-Garrido (No. 2) fell to Anna Morgina, 6-2, 6-4. The Panther sophomore sports an even 11-11 singles record for the spring.
Kanade lost her No. 3 singles match to the Sycamores' Lifanova, 6-2, 6-1. Kanade is 15-8 overall in singles competition during the spring.
With the match notched at 3-3, Kunzelmann decided the Panthers' fate in her No. 4 singles match. The freshman came through, topping ISU's Botes in three sets, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. Kunzelmann distinguished herself as the team's top singles win-getter with the victory as well. She is currently 16-7 in dual match play.
"This was a huge victory for our team. This was the first time in my time at UNI that we've defeated Indiana State and the first time in a long time that a No. 7 seed has beaten a No. 2 seed," said head coach Sachin Kirtane.
The Sycamores defeated the Panthers earlier this season, 5-2, winning every individual match in which they competed. Indiana State also eliminated UNI from the MVC Championships last season.
The Panthers now turn their attention to Southern Illinois. UNI takes on the Salukis tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the MVC Championships semifinal match at the Koch Family Tennis Center in Omaha, Neb. UNI defeated SIU earlier this season, 4-3.