Shot at nationals denied by Slugs

Tyler Morrill

Sports editor

The women’s tennis team’s postseason aspirations ended as soon as they began after a first-round loss to University of California Santa Cruz, the No. 4-ranked team in the west region.

After taking the Northwest Conference title on April 19, the Wildcats earned a ticket to the NCAA Division III West Regional tournament hosted by Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in Pomona, Calif. There were six teams in Pomona for the weekend tournament.

The Wildcats drew the Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, who have earned a bid for the NCAA tournament for the fourth year in a row.

These two teams met earlier in the season, and the Wildcats had a tough time with the Slugs.

On March 17, the Wildcats fell to UCSC, nationally ranked at the time. That loss was the first of the season for the Wildcats against a Division III opponent.

“We definitely knew what to expect this time around,” senior Kelli Sides said. “However, they had that same advantage, and the confidence of already beating us once. (Last time) we had a lot of close individual matches, so we did feel confident we could turn the results around.”

The winner of this match advanced to the second round to take on University of Redlands, which has the No. 1 seed in the regional tournament.

The ’Cats lost the first-round match to the Banana Slugs, 5-1. Freshman Sarah Click was the only Wildcat to win her match. She defeated UCSC’s sophomore Chrissy Nichol in straight sets with 6-2 and 6-1 victories.

The first time these two teams met Click was also the only singles competitor to take a win from UCSC.

UC Santa Cruz jumped to an early lead by winning all three doubles matches.

In the first doubles match, Linfield’s all-NWC duo, senior Kasey Kuenzli and sophomore Sallie Katter, took the court to start the competition.

Linfield would need wins in five of the six singles matches and advance to the next round. Unfortunately, UCSC wasn’t looking to continue the first-round competition much farther than they needed to with early wins in singles competition, but the ’Cats got off on the wrong foot with an 8-5 loss.

Kuenzli and UCSC senior Jessica Ruth set up for their second match of the day in the first singles match. Ruth gave Kuenzli her sixth singles loss of the season. She was able to defeat Kuenzli, 6-2 and 6-3, in straight sets. Winning this match gave Ruth her second win over Kuenzli in the season.

After Kuenzli’s loss, UCSC only needed one more win to advance to the second round.

Click was able to push the competition to another match with her win in straight sets.

Linfield couldn’t build on that though, as UCSC’s sophomore  Kyra Kessler-Rowe defeated Molly Nelson, 6-2 and 6-0, to seal up the victory.

Kuenzli and Katter still have an opportunity to compete at the individual level in doubles. They are waiting on the decision from the NCAA whether or not they will qualify.

For the rest of the Wildcats, the year is over. It was a successful season as they went through NWC competition undefeated and extended their NWC winning streak to 99.

“We all decided to kind of focus on the conference win and the amazing season that we did have,” Sides said. “It is really difficult for a team to continue a streak like the one we have, especially when our conference has continued to become stronger and stronger.”

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