FRESNO, Calif. -- Fresno Pacific’s bid to set the Golden State Athletic Conference all-sports record for the longest conference winning streak was nearly ruined by upset-minded Azusa Pacific, but the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Sunbirds battled back from a 3-2 deficit to post a 5-4 win over the No. 10-ranked Cougars Thursday afternoon.
The victory was the 59th consecutive conference win for Fresno Pacific, which launched its varsity women’s tennis program in 2006 and has yet to taste defeat during GSAC play, and it broke the previous record of 58 straight conference wins set by the Azusa Pacific men’s tennis program from 2002 through 2008.
It was only the second time in Fresno Pacific’s program history that the Sunbirds won by such a narrow margin – the first time was last season against Vanguard, when Fresno Pacific won 5 of 6 singles matches, and, with the team outcome already in hand, abandoned all 3 doubles points when a player experienced a medical issue.
Fresno Pacific’s Sara Celma proved to be the difference, helping lead Fresno Pacific to an 8-4 win at No. 2 doubles in the most tightly-contested doubles contest of the afternoon. The Sunbirds claimed the No. 1 doubles point, 8-2, and Azusa Pacific answered with an 8-2 win courtesy of its No. 3 pair, senior Jessalyn Lau and sophomore Emily Ignas. With Celma’s win at No. 2, Fresno Pacific took a 2-1 lead in the match into singles play.
The Cougars’ depth at the bottom of the lineup resulted in 2 quick wins, with junior Casey Wetzig winning at No. 5 singles when her opponent retired with Wetzig holding a 4-0 lead in the opening set to even the team score at 2-2. Junior Marie Tanaka pushed Azusa Pacific in front with a 6-1, 6-0 victory at the No. 6 position over the Sunbirds’ Heidi Jackson.
After Fresno Pacific posted straight-set victories at the No. 1 and 4 spots, Celma clinched the match for the Sunbirds when she closed out a 7-5, 6-1 win over sophomore Natalie McNall at No. 2. If she had not done so, sophomore Leah Hoffee’s rally to split the first 2 sets at No. 3 would have pinned the match’s fate on her third set. However, with the match outcome already sealed, Hoffee won the super tiebreaker set, 10-8, for the final 5-4 margin.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 4-2 overall, 3-2 GSAC, while Fresno Pacific improves to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in GSAC.