CLAREMONT, Calif. – Braving high temperatures to win its ninth straight match, the Linfield women’s tennis team scored a come-from-behind victory over the University of Texas at Tyler in the first round of the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament, defeating the 30th-ranked Patriots 5-4 Thursday at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center on the campus of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
“It doesn’t get any closer,” said head coach Amy Dames Smith of the win, which came down to the wire and ended in a three-set thriller at No. 1 singles.
It was Abby Olbrich who came through in the clutch, despite dealing with severe dehydration. She outlasted the Patriots’ Michelle Hagler 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the decisive match victory.
Her win helped the Wildcats (16-4) advance to the second round of the regional tournament, where they will face top-seeded Pomona-Pitzer (16-3).
Facing a 0-2 deficit after two doubles flights had finished, Linfield picked up its first match point at No. 2 doubles. Sophie Larson and Caroline Brigham (Jr., Eagle, Idaho) teamed to defeat Hagler and Jessica Blundell 9-8 and get momentum rolling for the ‘Cats.
Linfield would win four of six singles flights, but nothing was assured until the final two matches.
Facing elimination with the score 4-3 in UT-Tyler’s favor, Larson defeated Syndi Hermsdorf in three sets by a score of 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to set up the final showdown between Olbrich and Hagler.
“I knew that Abby and Sophie would pull through just because of the players that they are,” Dames Smith said.
Also picking up victories for the Wildcats were Brigham and Sarah Click. Brigham topped Jessica Blundell 7-5, 6-4 and Click earned the victory over Brittany Trich 7-5, 6-4.
“I just can’t say enough about the effort and teamwork and overall grit and fight that it took to win today,” Dames Smith said.
On a day when temperatures soared in the mid-80s, the Wildcats had to battle the elements as well as their opponent.
“Even though we were down here yesterday and practiced for almost two hours, there’s still that acclimation period of getting used to the heat,” Dames Smith said. “Abby was extremely dehydrated at the end of her third set but just battled it out.”
Olbrich’s performance came a day after she was among 32 singles players selected to compete in the individual tournament of the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championships, May 27-29 in Claremont, Calif.
But for now, the focus is on Linfield’s next opponent, Pomona-Pitzer. The Sagehens are the region’s top team and are also ranked No. 7 nationally.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Dames Smith said. “If we fight and believe like we did today, it’ll definitely be a battle.”
NEXT: The Wildcats play Pomona-Pitzer Friday, beginning at 10 a.m.
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