Linfield Wildcats

April 26, 2014
Wildcats bounce Pirates in rubber match
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – For the second time in three years, Linfield and Whitman square off in the championship match of the Northwest Conference Women's Tennis Tournament after the Wildcats staged a 5-3 comeback victory over Whitworth in the second semifinal match Saturday evening at Whitman's outdoor tennis courts.
With a trip to the NCAA postseason on the line, the ‘Cats (13-3) hope to reverse a losing trend against the Missionaries (15-9) to claim their first tournament crown since the 2011 season. Whitman has defeated Linfield in five straight matches, including twice this year.
With Linfield and Whitworth splitting the regular season matches at their respective home courts, all signs pointed to a close semifinal bout. Playing under the lights in front of a large crowd, the teams did not disappoint.
The third-seeded Wildcats dug themselves a 2-1 hole after doubles. But Linfield pocketed two quick points at Nos. 1 and 6 singles, took the lead with another victory at No. 2 singles and clinched the match when Marisa Kume outlasted Annabelle Burns in a three-set barnburner in the fourth flight.

"We really used the confidence we gained from that last match at home (against Whitworth) to push us through," said head coach Lisa Macy-Baker. "When you go down in doubles, it's tough to mentally regroup and come back. That's what impressed me with the team so much tonight. They regrouped quickly, even though we didn't have the momentum in our favor. It's like they had another gear tonight."
Kume won the opening set 6-4 and Burns responded with a 3-6 second-set victory to knot things up in the decisive match. Kume got out to 4-1 and 5-1 leads before securing the individual and team wins with a 6-2 third-set victory.
Second-seeded Whitworth had to adjust its lineup twice due to an injured Taylor Pena, but still took a one-point lead into singles with victories at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles. Caroline Brigham and Mackenzie Fraser took advantage of the reshuffled top-flight pair – comprised of Burns and Saryn Mooney – to cruise to an 8-0 victory that gave Linfield the early 1-0 edge.
The Pirates more than made up for the loss when Bella Hoyos and Morgan McDivitt edged Kaila Nip and Kelly Watanabe 8-6, while KC McConnell and Caylee Lamm defeated Gretchen Jernstedt and Courtney Mostul (Sr., Sherwood, Ore.) 8-3 to swing momentum back in Whitworth's favor.

"Being down 2-1 was a little nerve-racking," Macy-Baker admitted. "That match at No. 2 doubles could have gone either way. It was a total battle, just like the first time we played them. You have to give them credit for playing really well."
Pena tried to make a go at No. 1 singles, but withdrew from competition, giving Brigham and the Wildcats a second point to knot the match at 2-2. Hoyos defeated Watanabe 6-3, 6-3 to pull Whitworth back ahead before Fraser blitzed to a 6-0, 6-0 shutout against Lamm, and Nip topped Mooney 6-3, 6-3 to push Linfield within a point of victory, 4-3.

"Kaila's match was unbelievable," Macy-Baker said. "Saryn played terrific, and Kaila just played better. Kaila is such a fighter. She's that kid that you never doubt what she's going to give every match, and she wanted it."
Kume improved to 13-3 on the season with her decisive win at No. 4 singles, defeating Burns for the second straight match, both victories coming in three sets.

OTHER SEMIFINAL ACTION: Whitman made quick work of fourth-seeded Puget Sound, defeating the Loggers 5-0 in the first women's match of the day.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield has reached the championship match of the tournament 14 times, owning a 8-5 record in those matches…the Wildcats have advanced to the final match in all but two years (2013, 2010) since the conference instituted a postseason tournament in 1999…Whitman defeated Linfield 5-4 and 8-1 this season…the ‘Cats have not defeated the Missionaries since April 6, 2012.

NEXT: Sunday's championship match gets underway at noon.
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Marisa Kume
Clinches team victory at No. 4 singles