Championship Web Site
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Four teams find themselves in familiar territory entering the 2012 Northwest Conference women’s tennis tournament, slated for Saturday and Sunday at the Linfield Tennis Center, with all but one hoping for a different outcome than what transpired in the same event last year.
Linfield, Whitman, Whitworth and Willamette all qualified for the 2011 championship tournament, won by the Wildcats. The top-seeded home team is the only one looking for a repeat, a feat that will earn the ‘Cats a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championship.
Linfield went undefeated against NWC competition this year, clinching the program’s first regular-season title since 2008 with a 12-0 league record, 12-4 overall. But that means nothing if the Wildcats cannot muster up two more wins to earn the league’s automatic bid to the national tournament.
Abby Olbrich, the West Region’s seventh-best singles player according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, is the reigning singles and doubles champion. This year, she went 10-5 overall, including 9-2 in the NWC, and teamed with Caroline Brigham to compile an 11-5 doubles record. The two only lost once in league play, to Willamette’s top pair.
Second-seeded Whitman (15-4, 10-2 NWC) looks to avenge its only two defeats in Division III competition this season to Linfield. The Missionaries dropped a 6-3 decision to the Wildcats in McMinnville, but nearly pulled off the upset seven weeks later in Walla Walla, falling by just one match, 5-4.
Whitman boasts the highest two regionally-ranked singles players of the four NWC teams in No. 2 Alyssa Roberg and No. 4 Courtney Lawless. The duo is also the third-ranked doubles pair in the West. Lawless’ twin sister, Morgan, is unranked, but equally as dominant competing at No. 3 singles. None of the three is accustomed to losing, combining for a 42-6 singles record this year, including 30-1 against the NWC.
But in order to have a third go at Linfield, the Missionaries must first get by Whitworth, a team with a handsome resume of its own. The Pirates won three consecutive regular-season titles and two straight tournament crowns before being upset by Linfield in last year's tournament. This season, Whitworth is considered the 10th-best club in the region at 13-6, including 9-3 in the NWC. Its only losses in league play came at the hands of Linfield (twice) and Whitman.
Alli Marshall and Erica Bosman, ranked 18th and 24th in the West, respectively, are a combined 19-16 (14-9 NWC) in singles and 13-6 (8-4 NWC) in doubles action. Despite having won just four matches against the four tournament teams (all against Willamette), the two look to ride momentum earned from their No. 1 doubles victory in a nonconference tilt against NAIA opponent Lewis-Clark State earlier this week.
Fourth-seeded Willamette (7-9, 5-7 NWC) snuck into the tournament by virtue of a tiebreaker over Puget Sound, following a 1½ round-robin schedule that utilized a point system to determine the four tournament-qualifying teams. But the Bearcats are out to prove they are not simply happy to be here. The 14th-ranked team in the West, Willamette is battle-tested, having faced Linfield, Whitman and Whitworth a combined five times already this season, as well as two nationally-ranked opponents in No. 13 Trinity (Texas) and No. 33 St. Edward’s.
The Bearcats’ top singles player, Shannon Palmer, is the only regionally-ranked player on the roster (19) and boasts an 8-8 record, including 6-6 against league opponents. She and doubles partner Sabrina Gutierrez are 7-9, including 5-7 in the NWC.
Linfield and Willamette open tournament action with a 10 a.m. match Saturday morning. Whitman and Whitworth square off in the second semifinal match that afternoon, beginning at 2 p.m. The two winners meet Sunday morning at 10 a.m., with the champion receiving the league’s automatic bid to the national tournament. More information about the tournament, including links to live statistics, box scores and match recaps, can be found here.
All matches begin with three doubles flights. However, in a switch from the regular season, teams will only play until one team reaches the decisive fifth point, at which all other matches will cease. This is the second year the postseason tournament has featured four teams. The NWC began team tournament play in 1999 with 10 teams, including Seattle University, and over the years the number of qualifying teams has decreased, from eight (2000) to six (2006) to four (2011).