WALLA WALLA, Wash. – A 3-2 advantage after doubles action proved the difference as defending league champion and nationally ranked Whitman narrowly edged rival Linfield 5-4 in the Northwest Conference season opener Friday evening at the Bratton Tennis Center.
Caroline Brigham (Sr., Eagle, Idaho) and Mackenzie Fraser (Fr., Salem, Ore.) claimed the top doubles flight, and Kaila Nip (Jr., Lahaina, Hawaii), Kelly Watanabe (Jr., Kirkland, Wash.) and Courtney Mostul (Fr., Sherwood, Ore.) picked up three more points for the Wildcats in singles action.
The decisive match came at No. 5 singles, where Hannah Palkowitz outlasted Gretchen Jernstedt (Jr., Wilsonville, Ore.) 6-4, 6-4 in the longest match of the night.
“The takeaway was simple: while a tough loss, the match proved our ability to compete against the best team in the league,” said head coach Lisa Macy-Baker. “This match could have gone either way and it certainly adds fuel to our fire.”
The 16th-ranked Missionaries, whose tough preseason schedule included matches against NCAA Division II programs Hawaii Pacific University and BYU-Hawaii, inched closer to a .500 overall record at 2-4 overall, and 1-0 in NWC action. The Wildcats, meanwhile, dropped to 1-1 and 0-1 against league foes.
Morgan Lawless and Jenna Dobrin opened the afternoon by giving Nip and Watanabe a rare Northwest Conference loss, 8-3 at No. 2 doubles. Katrina Allick and Palkowitz topped Jernstedt and Marisa Kume (Fr., Nagoya, Japan) 8-2, but Brigham and Fraser kept things tight entering singles play with an 8-6 victory over Courtney Lawless and Erin Bell in the top flight.
"We rode the momentum of Caroline and Mack's doubles match into singles," Macy-Baker said. "Kaila battled with passion that infused what would become an overall match score of 4-4. Kelly and Courtney played their best singles of the year. It came down to the final match, in which Gretchen competed to the bitter end.”
Courtney Lawless got revenge against Brigham in singles action, taking the top match by a score of 6-4, 6-0. Bell defeated Kume 6-0, 6-1 at No. 4 singles, while Palkowitz earned the 6-4, 6-4 victory over Jernstedt in the fifth flight.
Linfield's three wins at Nos. 2, 3 and 6 singles kept things as close as they could get against Whitman. Nip bested Dorbin 6-4, 6-2, Watanabe posted a 6-3, 6-0 result against Allick and Mostul rounded out the singles action with her 6-4, 6-2 win over Seana Minuth.
COMING UP: Linfield looks to bounce back with a win over one of the other top programs in the conference, Whitworth. The Wildcats and Pirates face off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Spokane.
Pairs with Mackenzie Fraser for win at No. 1 doubles
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