The Elon University women’s tennis team suffered its second straight loss and first in Southern Conference play March 21, a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the visiting Furman University Paladins.

With the Phoenix already trailing 3-1 in the match, Elon’s Taylor Casey faced an uphill battle on court No. 5.  The sophomore had already dropped the first set, 6-1, to sophomore Kelly Sullivan and struggled to a 3-4 deficit in the second set before sparking a comeback.

Casey battled back to a take a 6-5 lead in the second set, but lost the next two games, leaving the set to be decided by a tiebreaker that Sullivan won, 7-1, to give Furman a 4-1 lead and seal the match for the Paladins.

Furman took an early 1-0 by capturing the doubles point with wins on court Nos. 1 and 2.  Casey and senior Bryn Khoury got things started with a win on doubles court No. 3, an 8-2 defeat of junior Margaret Boyette and freshman Karlee Bryde.  But losses by Elon’s top pairing of senior Jordan Johnston and junior Barbora Lazarova, as well as the No. 2 pairing of senior Frida Jansaker and junior Maria Camara Ruiz, gave the Paladins the doubles point that would prove the be the deciding point for Furman.

Though the team has struggled of late, head coach Elizabeth Anderson said she is not worried about her team going forward.

“The season is a long period of time,” Anderson said.  “We still haven’t peaked and we almost beat [Furman]. They are one of the best teams in the conference, so we can still play a lot better tennis and I think that’s going to be coming ahead for us very soon.”

Johnston says the recent losses have allowed the players to identify the finer points of their games that need polishing as SoCon play heats up.

“[The loss] exploits some things we need to work on,” Johnston said.  “The sooner we learn what we can work on, the sooner we can fix it and move on and start another streak.”

Jansaker began singles play with a 6-1, 6-2 win on court No. 2 to tie the match, 1-1.  Furman then took a 2-1 lead on Bryde’s 6-2, 6-3 win over Khoury.  Lazarova followed with a loss on court No. 3 to junior Katherine Oudin, giving the Paladins a commanding 3-1 lead.  Oudin is the sister of professional women’s tennis player Melanie Oudin, who is notable for her 2009 run to round of 16 at the Wimbledon Championships and quarterfinal appearance in the U.S. Open at the age of 17.

Lazarova’s loss to Oudin snaps a personal eight-match winning streak that started Jan. 25 against Kansas State University.

Elon’s current two-match slide is its longest since starting the season 0-4.  But Johnston remains confident that the team will get back on track.

“It’s early in the season, so I wouldn’t focus on what’s going wrong,” Johnston said.  “We have a lot left ahead of us and a lot of tennis left to play so it’s a bump in the road but ultimately this loss is a blessing in disguise for what’s to come in the future.”

After the setback against Furman, Elon’s record stands at 8-6 and 2-1 in the SoCon.  The Phoenix will be back in action March 22 for a match against Wofford College.  The match is set for 10 a.m. at the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center.

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by ENN.