Lawless' Lead Charge for Whitman at USTA/ITA Regional

Sunday, Sep 23, 2012

Walla Walla, Wash.- A day after a pair of Whitman first years surprised the rest of the conference, sophomore twins Courtney and Morgan Lawless (Austin, TX) did exactly what they were expected to do on Sunday. They won, and won, and won some more, as the Missionaries continued their best ever showing at the USTA/ITA Fall Regional championships.

Playing without three-year #1 singles player Alyssa Roberg (Santa Cruz, CA) in the singles bracket, Whitman still managed to match their two-semifinalist showing in last year's tournament. Morning showers in Walla Walla wetted the outdoor tennis courts at Whitman College, but they did nothing to stop the incendiary play of the Lawless twins.

After dropping just one game in advancing to the Round of 16, #2 seed Courtney Lawless picked up where she left off in a 6-1, 6-0 victory over 9th-seeded Payton McGriff of Pacific Lutheran to advance to the quarterfinals where she squared off with teammate Jenna Dobrin (Camarillo, CA).

A #9 seed, Dobrin was fresh off a 7-5, 6-1 upset victory over 6th-seeded Claudia Lew, one of three impressive first years from Lewis and Clark. Dobrin dominated the second set after taking an emotionally charged first set in an excited Bratton Tennis Center, but she couldn't muster another upset over her teammate. Despite playing incredibly high-level tennis, the first year couldn't dent her teammate on the scorecard, as Courtney rolled to a 6-1, 6-2 victory to advance to the semifinals. There, she will face Olivia Cornell, another talented Lewis and Clark freshman.

5th-seeded Morgan Lawless, who advanced to the Round of 16 with ease on Saturday, kept her dominant form beating Whitworth freshman Taylor Pena 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the quarters where she met Aurora Garrison in the match of the day.

At #4, Garrison was the highest seed of the Lewis and Clark freshman and had been playing like it for the first three rounds. After dropping just one game on her way to the Round of 16, Garrison toppled surprise Whitman first year Kate Rubinstein (Portland, OR) 6-0, 6-3. Rubinstein was suffering from soreness after her first long day of college tennis, but that didn't prevent her from playing high-level tennis on Sunday morning. Though she failed to get on the scoreboard, she dropped several close games in the first set before finally breaking through in the second. Fighting hard, Rubinstein managed to keep the second set close at 3-4 before Garrison's superior experience pushed her into the quarterfinals.

Morgan Lawless, So.

In the quarters, Morgan imposed her will in the first set, forcing Garrison to play her preferred baseline game. That didn't prevent Garrison from keeping the set close. The two traded breaks and holds until the set was knotted up at 6-6, but Morgan was able to handle the pressure better and won the tiebreaker and the set. Shortly thereafter, Morgan suffered a classic emotional letdown after the tense tiebreaker, and Garrison jumped out to a 0-3 lead in the second. Lawless battled back to 2-3, but Garrison held then broke to extend her lead to 2-5. From there, Lawless won a three tense games to knot the second set at 5-5. She then finished the comeback by breaking a dispirited Garrison and holding to punch her ticket into the semifinals. There, she will meet Willamette's Denise Poltavski, a #9 seed who has been playing some impressive tennis for the Bearcats.

In consolation action, Olivia Bates (Edmonds, WA) ran out of physical and emotional steam from her previous two matches and fell to Puget Sound's Allison Embernate; Katrina Allick (San Fransisco, CA) couldn't find the same rhythm as she had in Saturday's victory and dropped an 8-5 decision to Whitworth's Caylee Lamm; Maddy Webster (Long Beach, CA) won her opening round against George Fox's Bethany Nguyen before coming up against a steamroller in Lewis and Clark's Izzy Borris; and Erin Minuth (San Fransisco, CA) toppled UPS' Molly Dixon in a tight 9-7 match before also falling victim to Borris.

After the Lawless twins were safely in the semifinals of the singles bracket, they returned to the court in the afternoon with their partners to continue their winning ways. Courtney and Roberg, the #1 seeds and defending champions, played textbook doubles in an 8-0 victory over a 5th-seeded team from Lewis and Clark of Olivia Cornell and Gillian Lowe. In the semifinals, they finally ran into some stiff competition from Izzy Boris and Lisa Osepyan (also Pioneers), but they persevered for a 8-5 win to advance to the finals.

On the other side of the draw, Morgan Lawless and Jenna Dobrin met #3 seeds Aurora Garrison and Claudia Lew. Dobrin, who defeated Lew in singles, and Lawless, who defeated Garrison in singles, eliminated their respective opponents a second time, tallying a 8-5 upset victory. Their semifinal match was much less competitive, as they eased their way into the finals with an 8-1 victory over Beaumont and Inn from George Fox. The pair of semifinal victories ensured that a Whitman doubles team will win the regional tournament for a third year in a row.

Last but certainly not least, Whitman's Kate Kunkel-Patterson (Yakima, WA) and Maddy Webster showed that you don't have to have a Lawless to win doubles matches. The senior-sophomore combo bounced back from their main draw defeat to win the consolation bracket with an impressive victory over Ecton and Watanbe of Linfield, completing a dominant day for the Missionary women on the doubles court.

Play will begin again tomorrow morning on Whitman's outdoor courts, with semifinal singles matches starting at 9 AM. The singles final will begin an hour after the completion of the semifinals, and Roberg and Courtney Lawless will play Dobrin and Morgan Lawless for the doubles crown when the singles tournament is over.

Defending double champs Alyssa Roberg and Courtney Lawless will return to the finals tomorrow.