SPOKANE, Wash. – Once again, doubles play was the difference as Linfield essentially clinched the Northwest Conference regular-season title with a 6-3 women’s tennis victory over Whitworth Saturday afternoon at the Scotford Tennis Center.
The Wildcats (11-4, 11-0 NWC) and third-place Pirates (11-5, 7-3 NWC) saw an even split at singles with three wins apiece. But Linfield already held the advantage after sweeping the doubles flights for the ninth time this season.
At No. 1 doubles, Abby Olbrich and Caroline Brigham (Jr., Eagle, Idaho) turned away Alli Marshall and Erica Bosman 8-4. Sisters Kaila and Kiana Nip defeated Jessi Steele and Saryn Mooney 8-5 while Lexi Thomas (Sr., Redding, Calif.) and Kelly Watanabe (Soph., Kirkland, Wash.) outlasted Claire Hemming and Megan Wingfield 9-7.
The ‘Cats got their singles victories in the first, third and fifth singles flights, all in straight sets.
In a battle of regionally-ranked opponents at No. 1 singles, fifth-ranked Olbrich nearly blanked 22nd-ranked Marshall 6-1, 6-0. Kaila Nip (Soph., Lahaina, Hawaii) downed Mooney 6-4, 6-0 and older sister Kiana earned the 6-4, 6-4 decision over Wingfield.
Whitworth made it interesting with victories at Nos. 2, 4 and 6 singles. The region’s 16th-best player, Bosman, avenged an earlier-season loss to Brigham, defeating her Wildcat opponent 6-3, 6-3.
Steele defeated Thomas for the second time this year, this time by a score of 6-1, 6-4. Hemming, like Bosman did to her Linfield foe, turned the tables on Watanabe, handing the freshman a 6-1, 6-2 defeat.
The 'Cats have one match left to play, but seemingly cannot be caught in the NWC team standings as no team has fewer than two losses. The regular-season champion earns the right to host the four-team tournament, scheduled for April 21-22, that determines the league's automatic bid to the NCAA field.
COMING UP: Linfield hosts Puget Sound in the Wildcats’ final regular-season match of the year next Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. The Wildcats won the first matchup between the two clubs by a score of 8-1 back in early March.
Wins at No. 1 singles and doubles
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