Carla Gibrau returns a ball during the University of Kentucky vs. Louisiana State women's tennis meet on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, at the Hillary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 4-3. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Following its first conference win of the season, the Kentucky women’s tennis team had its sights set on a weekend Heart of Dixie sweep and first ranked win of the season, hosting No. 21 Auburn at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. 

The 7-2 (2-1 SEC) Tigers came into Lexington after taking a 4-3 loss at No. 10 Vanderbilt two days prior. Both of Auburn’s defeats came at the hands of teams top-ten squads (No. 6 Georgia Tech), meaning the Cats’ order would be a tall one. 

Undefeated duo Akvilė Paražinskaitė and Fiona Arrese faced their toughest task of the season, squaring off against Selin Ovunc and Taylor Russo, the country’s No. 11 duo. UK’s top pair wasn’t fazed, soundly dispatching the Tiger tandem Ovunc 6-3 to remain perfect (8-0) in doubles competition. 

Auburn answered on court two, where Georgie Axon and Adeline Flach handed Carla Girbau and Elizabeth Stevens their second consecutive 6-3 loss. The team who would earn the early edge came down to court three.

No. 57 couple Lesedi Jacobs and Anastasia Tkachenko, in what was only their fourth match as a pair this year, looked to continue rebuilding chemistry and move up the doubles’ rankings. The Tiger duo of Carolyn Ansari and Madeline Meredith had other ideas, eventually besting the ranked pair 7-5 to send Kentucky into its first 1-0 hole of 2021.

Auburn quickly made it 2-0 as Axon defeated Stevens 6-1, 6-4. Things were fading fast, until the Cats’ top singles player finished her work.

Paražinskaitė got Kentucky on the board and extended her perfect season, taking down No. 62 Ovunc in 6-2, 6-4. The graduate student out of Vilnius, Lithuania has now won all 19 matches she has been a part of this season. 

The Wildcat pulse was quickly dampened though. Ansari finished off Jacobs 6-4, 6-5 to put Auburn one point from victory. Carlota Molina tried providing a final spark, beating Chen 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on court two. 

Flach had seen enough of the Kentucky comeback, and put a stop to it on court six. Her 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 win over sophomore Maialen Morante, stealing the last Wildcat gasp and dropping them below .500 in conference play once more. The Cats are now 9-2 (1-2 SEC) with both defeats coming at the hands of ranked teams (No. 19 LSU).

UK now begins a three-match road trip with SEC competition kicking into full swing. The Cats will first travel to Columbia to take on the Missouri Tigers. The match, set for Friday, Mar. 5, will begin at 1:00 p.m. at the Mizzou Tennis Complex.