BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb rallied for wins in the final three singles' matches of the day to beat UNC Asheville, 4-3, Thursday in a thrilling Big South women's tennis battle.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (6-4, 2-2 Big South) fell behind 1-0 after doubles competition, as Asheville (8-6, 3-2 Big South) seized early momentum with a 6-0 win at No. 3 doubles and a 6-2 victory at No. 2 doubles to capture that point.
Newcomer Miljana Ristic tied the match for Gardner-Webb at No. 4 singles, finishing the first with a 6-1, 6-4 win in straight sets over Emily Sidor.
UNC Asheville won the next two singles' bouts, however, taking a commanding 3-1 lead on the team scoreboard after Amalie Davidsen captured a 6-3, 6-1 win at No. 6 singles and Kylee Shipley rallied for a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win at No. 3 singles.
Gardner-Webb's rally started soon after, as Sarah Rieckmann jumped out to a lead at No. 2 singles with a 6-1 in the first set. Asheville's Lauren Watson-Steele bounced back to even things with a 6-4 win in the second set, but Rieckmann would not be denied as she won the third – and decisive – set by a 6-4 margin to pull the Runnin' Bulldogs within 3-2 on the team board.
Senior Catherine White fell behind in the first set at No. 5 singles, losing 6-3, but rebounded for a 6-3 win over her own over Hunter Hall in the second. White then cruised to the win by taking the third set in dominant fashion – by a 6-1 score.
With the team scored knotted at 3-3, the critical Big South Conference match came down to No. 1 singles.
Gardner-Webb's Sandra Bolstad and UNC Asheville's Hannah Francisco engaged in a hard-fought, and lengthy, first set, with Bolstad capturing a 7-6 (6) win to take early momentum. Francisco evened the decisive match with a 6-2 win in the second set, but Bolstad delivered a victory – winning the third set by a 6-4 margin.
It was Gardner-Webb's second home win in Big South play this season.
Up next for the Runnin' Bulldogs is a home match vs. Appalachian State on Saturday afternoon in Boiling Springs (Noon).