McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Ignoring Linfield’s rich pedigree in women’s tennis while writing some pretty good history of its own, Whitman captured the program’s first Northwest Conference tournament championship, topping the Wildcats 5-1 on a toasty Sunday afternoon at the Linfield Tennis Center.
The ‘Cats, undefeated in conference play this season at 13-0 (13-5 overall) entered the match with an 8-4 record in NWC tournament title matches. Linfield had also defeated the Missionaries (17-4, 12-2 NWC) twice already this season.
But Whitman won when it counted the most, swiping two of three doubles flights and owning Nos. 2, 3 and 6 singles to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championship.
At No. 2 doubles, Kaila Nip (Soph., Lahaina, Hawaii) and Kiana Nip won the first game, but from then on it was all Whitman as Morgan Lawless and Emily Rolston won the next eight to claim the 8-1 victory. It was the Nip sisters’ first loss to a Northwest Conference opponent this year.
Abby Olbrich and Caroline Brigham (Jr., Eagle, Idaho) jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the top doubles flight, but Alyssa Roberg and Courtney Lawless refused to go away. Trailing 5-2, the Whitman pair won six of the last seven games to stun the Wildcats 8-6.
Lexi Thomas (Sr., Redding, Calif.) and Kelly Watanabe (Soph., Kirkland, Wash.) made sure the ‘Cats remained within one point heading into singles, defeating Maddy Webster and Hannah Palkowitz by a score of 8-5.
The Lawless twins got it done for the Missionaries in singles play as well, as Courtney crushed Brigham 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles and Morgan tamed Thomas 6-1, 6-3 in the third flight.
Perhaps not wanting to play in the near 70-degree heat for much longer, Rolston helped Whitman finish off Linfield early with her 6-1, 6-3 victory over Gretchen Jernstedt (Soph., Wilsonville, Ore.) at No. 6 singles.
‘CAT SCRATCH: For the second straight year, the regular-season champion was knocked off in the tournament championship match...last year Linfield defeated top-seeded Whitworth 5-3...Thomas and Watanabe defeated their Whitman doubles opponent all three times this season…Jernstedt played in her first varsity singles match as an injury substitution…the ‘Cats saw their four-match win streak come to an end.
NEXT: Olbrich and Brigham trek down to southern California next weekend to compete in the Ojai Tournament. Linfield must wait to see if it receives an at-large bid to the national tournament. Team announcements are scheduled for Monday, May 7 while individual selections will be announced Wednesday, May 9.
Wins at No. 3 doubles
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