McMINNVILLE, Ore. – And now, they wait.
Taking care of business on Senior Day and ending the regular season on a high note, Linfield scored an 8-1 victory over Willamette on a chilly but dry Friday afternoon at the Linfield Tennis Center, a win that is hopefully enough to earn the Wildcats a berth in the four-team Northwest Conference women’s tennis tournament.
Linfield (8-9, 7-5 NWC) sat in fourth place in the official tennis point standings entering the weekend, but the three other teams (Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth) fighting for the final two spots in the tournament all play twice this weekend, as UPS and PLU visit Whitworth and Whitman.
Against Willamette, the Wildcats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after doubles play, but not without a bit of drama.
Kaila Nip (Soph., Lahaina, Hawaii) and Kelly Watanabe (Soph., Kirkland, Wash.) had the easiest time, quickly downing Mandy Carlson and Lizzie Kubitz by a count of 8-1 at No. 3 doubles. In top-flight action, Caroline Brigham (Jr., Eagle, Idaho) and Kwynn Ecton (Fr., Fort Collins, Colo.) put together a strong finish, leading Sabrina Gutierrez and Denise Poltavski by a slim 5-4 margin before claiming the final three points for the 8-4 victory.
Gretchen Jernstedt (Soph., Wilsonville, Ore.) and Lexi Thomas (Sr., Redding, Calif.) also had a battle on their hands at No. 2 doubles. Bearcats Rachel Herringer and Stephanie Matsuura rallied from a 6-5 deficit to force a tiebreak point, won by the Wildcat tandem for the 9-8 (7-2) win that completed the doubles sweep for the home team.
“Great contribution from our doubles today,” said head coach Amy Dames Smith. “We hope to be riding this victory into the conference tournament.”
In singles, Linfield secured the team victory just two matches in, thanks to Watanabe and Jernstedt, and won five of six flights overall for a dominant showing against the Bearcats.
Watanabe topped Carlson 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5 singles while Jernstedt earned the 6-0, 6-2 decision over Kubitz in the sixth flight. Brigham earned her third victory of the season in the No. 1 position by way of a 6-3, 6-2 win over Poltavski. At No. 4 singles, Ecton defeated Matsuura 6-3, 6-2. Nip took the point at third-flight singles by default due to an injured Bearcat player.
Willamette’s Gutierrez scored the sole point for the visitors with a straight-set victory over Thomas at No. 2 singles, 6-3, 6-4. The Bearcats, who competed in the four-team league tournament a season ago but boast just a 1-14 overall record and 1-10 NWC win-loss mark this year, conclude their season Saturday against George Fox.
'CAT SCRATCH: Linfield's lone senior, Thomas, was honored prior to the match...she has won 19 singles matches and 24 doubles matches over her three-year career as a Wildcat...Nip and Watanabe compiled the team's best doubles record this year, finishing 9-5 overall and 8-1 against NWC opponents...Brigham, Ecton, Nip and Watanabe all went undefeated in their respective matches against the Bearcats this season.
Winner at No. 1 singles and doubles
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McMinnville, OR 97128