AZUSA, Calif. -- For the second time this year, the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific threw a scare into defending Golden State Athletic Conference champion Fresno Pacific, but the No. 2-ranked Sunbirds held off the Cougars for a 6-3 win Monday afternoon at the Munson & Bavougian Tennis Complex.
On March 4, Azusa Pacific nearly ruined Fresno Pacific’s bid to set the GSAC all-sports record for longest conference winning streak, pushing the Sunbirds to the final match in a narrow 5-4 defeat. This time, the Cougars’ upset bid would have required a doubles sweep after losses in 4 of the 6 singles matches.
Juniors Sheryl Bon and Marie Tanaka provided straight-set singles wins that kept Azusa Pacific alive heading into doubles, which began with sophomore Leah Hoffee’s extended 3-set battle at No. 3 singles still taking place. Hoffee bounced back from a 6-3 opening-set defeat to Cristina Vallardes by winning the second-set tiebreaker by a 7-1 margin. Vallardes answered with a 6-0 win in the third set, Hoffee’s eighth 3-set affair in singles play this season.
Bon, who lost in straight sets to Katia Sabate in their first meeting at No. 1 singles this year, rolled to a 6-1 opening-set win and held off Sabate in a second-set tiebreaker for her third straight-sets singles win in her past 4 matches. Tanaka matched her personal season-long singles winning streak, posting her fifth straight win and improving her singles record on the year to 10-1 with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Heidi Jackson at the No. 6 position.
Junior Casey Wetzig’s 11-match singles winning streak was snapped with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat at No. 4 to Vanessa Heroux, who is ranked No. 30 in the ITA’s NAIA individual singles rankings. Wetzig is now 13-2 in singles play this season, and Azusa Pacific is a combined 29-5 at the No. 5 and 6 singles positions.
After Fresno Pacific clinched the match with an 8-2 win at No. 1 doubles, Tanaka and sophomore Emily Ignas answered with an 8-5 win at No. 3. Hoffee and Wetzig suffered an 8-2 defeat at the No. 2 spot to Fresno Pacific’s Sara Celma and Vallardes, a tandem ranked 12th in the ITA’s NAIA individual doubles rankings, to round out the match.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 11-6 overall, 7-6 GSAC. All 6 of the Cougars’ defeats have come against teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the NAIA. Fresno Pacific extends its GSAC-record conference winning streak to 67 matches, and the Sunbirds are now 21-1 overall and 13-0 in GSAC play. The Sunbirds are 1 victory away from clinching at least a share of the program’s fifth straight conference title.
Azusa Pacific visits Hope International on Saturday, April 17, and the Cougars return home on Monday, April 19, to host the NAIA’s No. 4-ranked Concordia.