AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific split 6 singles matches before dropping 2-of-3 in doubles, suffering a narrow 5-4 defeat to No. 4-ranked Concordia Monday afternoon at the Munson & Bavougian Tennis Complex.
Concordia took an early 3-0 lead in the match with singles wins at the No. 2, 3 and 4 positions, all in straight sets, but Cougar juniors Marie Tanaka, Casey Wetzig and Sheryl Bon pulled Azusa Pacific back into a 3-3 tie. Tanaka and Wetzig both won in 3 sets, and Bon concluded singles play with a tightly-contested straight-sets victory at the No. 1 spot over Jennifer Sher, ranked seventh in the most recent NAIA individual rankings.
Bon, ranked No. 12 in the NAIA singles rankings, rallied from a 5-2 deficit in an opening-set tiebreaker, scoring the final 3 points for an 8-6 tiebreaker win, and she registered a 6-4 win in the second set for her second consecutive straight-sets win over a player ranked in the top 5 of the NAIA individual rankings.
Tanaka registered the first point for Azusa Pacific, coming back from a 6-0 setback in the opening set at No. 6 singles for 6-2 and 6-4 wins in the second and third sets for her 11th win in 12 singles matches this season. Wetzig pulled the Cougars to within 3-2 with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win at No. 5, a victory that pushed her individual singles mark this season to 14-2.
Concordia registered the first doubles win at No. 3, and the Eagles clinched the match victory when Sher and Bettina Radke picked up an early service break in an 8-4 win at No. 1 doubles. Wetzig and sophomore Leah Hoffee jumped out to a 5-0 lead at No. 2 doubles, then held on for an 8-5 win over Kristin Yep and Jordan Kimura.
The loss was Azusa Pacific’s third in the past 4 matches, although all 3 went down to the final 3 matches of the contest against teams ranked in the NAIA’s top 10. In fact, all 7 Cougar defeats this season have come against teams currently ranked in the top 10, 6 of them by scores of either 6-3 or 7-2, and Azusa Pacific has handily won all 5 of its other matchups against teams ranked outside the top 10 of the NAIA Top 25, winning by a combined margin of 41-4.
The Cougars have 1 GSAC match remaining, a Tuesday, April 27 visit to Biola. Several of Azusa Pacific’s players are listed among the competitors at this weekend’s 110th Annual Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament, which begins women’s collegiate play on Thursday, April 22, at the Ojai Valley Tennis Club.