CLaw Wins 20th Straight in Singles, Lifts Women's Tennis to First-Round Team Triumph at DIII National Championships
News Release Date:
Friday, May 11
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Courtney Lawless rallied for a three-set triumph at No. 2 singles, extending her season-long winning streak to 20 matches, to lift Whitman College to a 5-3 victory over UC-Santa Cruz in Friday's opening round of the NCAA Division III National Championships.
Playing in a six-team regional tournament in Claremont, Calif., Whitman rallied from a 2-1 deficit after doubles to extend its season for at least one more match.
"It was a great match all the way around," Whitman coach John Hein said. "Doubles was very competitive, and then we dug deep to win it in singles."
The Missionaries, now 18-4 on the season, advance to face Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), the tournament host, at 2 p.m. Saturday. The winner of that match plays in Sunday's regional final for the chance to advance to the Final Eight later this month in Cary, N.C.
Whitman, ranked No. 7 in the West Region and No. 29 at the national level, is making the program's first-ever appearance in the national tournament field.
When Lawless, a first-year player, scored Whitman's clinching fifth team point, the only other match still in progress was left unfinished. That was at No. 1 singles, where Whitman junior Alyssa Roberg had rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the third set to even that set at 5-5.
UC-Santa Cruz, which has played a number of nationally ranked teams this season, saw its season end with a deceptive 4-14 record. The Banana Slugs began the tournament with higher rankings (No. 6 region, No. 27 nation) than Whitman.
CMS, which stands in Whitman's way Saturday, is 20-3 on the season and ranked No. 1 in the West Region and No. 9 at the national level.
UC-Santa Cruz grabbed a 2-1 in Friday's opening round of doubles, but it was Missionary sophomore Hannah Palkowitz and first-year teammate Maddy Webster who picked off the first team point of the day. Palkowitz and Webster raced to a 4-0 lead at No. 3 doubles and then finished a quick 8-2 victory over Rebecca Parker and Quyen Truong.
But the Banana Slugs evened the score at 1-1 when Alexandra Scotten and Laura Wade took an 8-5 decision from Roberg and Lawless in a battle of regionally ranked duos at the No. 1 spot.
UC-Santa then notched a second team point at No. 2 doubles, where Courtney Lymburner and Sarah Malone outlasted Whitman senior Emily Rolston and her first-year doubles partner, Morgan Lawless, for a 9-7 victory.
Whitman regained the upper hand with the start of singles, moving in front 3-2 when Rolston raced past Parker 6-4, 6-2 in the No. 6 slot and Morgan Lawless rolled to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Lymburner at No. 3.
Junior Kate Kunkel-Patterson then scrambled past Malone 6-4, 7-5 at No. 4 singles to up the Missionary team lead to 4-2.
Sophie Lundeberg kept the Banana Slug hopes alive, trimming her side's deficit to 4-3, with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 comeback victory over Webster at No. 5 singles.
Meanwhile, matches still in progress at No. 1 and No. 2 singles had moved to third sets, and UC-Santa Cruz needed wins in both cases to pull out the team victory.
But Courtney Lawless dropped the curtain on that lingering suspense, finishing a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Wade in the No. 2 match. It was her 20th consecutive singles victory, a winning streak that began after she dropped her first match of the season to an NAIA player.
Scotten had Roberg on the ropes to start their third set at No. 1 singles, winning the first four games. But Roberg, ranked No. 2 in singles in the West Region, had fought back to square the set at 5-5 when Lawless clinched Whitman's team victory.
After Scotten won the first set 6-4, Roberg bounced back to take the second by a 6-2 margin.
"This was a great win and great team effort," Hein said. "Roberg definitely had the momentum in her unfinished match, and everyone else who played for us contributed to one of the team points.
"We're excited and happy to have started the national championship tournament with a victory, but now we have to get ready for a very good team tomorrow."
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; firstname.lastname@example.org