MOBILE, Ala. -- After a 1-year hiatus, Azusa Pacific returned to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championship for the sixth time in the past 7 seasons with a 5-0 second-round win over Shorter (Ga.) College Wednesday morning.
As its reward, the No. 7-seeded Cougars earned a 9 a.m. (CDT) quarterfinal matchup Thursday with Golden State Athletic Conference rival Fresno Pacific, the regular-season GSAC undefeated champion and the tournament’s No. 2-seed. The Sunbirds have never lost to a GSAC opponent since starting the women’s tennis program in 2006, although Azusa Pacific is one of 3 teams that came up on the losing end of 5-4 scores this season against Fresno Pacific.
Wednesday’s victory opened with a doubles sweep, and all 6 Cougars in the singles lineup won their opening sets to set up the win. Junior Sheryl Bon surrendered just 1 singles game in a 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles that gave Azusa Pacific a 4-0 lead, and junior Casey Wetzig closed out the match with a No. 5 singles win in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
“I’ve said before that our team has gotten better as the season progressed, and today was no different,” Cougar head coach Mark Bohren said. “This was a tremendous all-around team effort, and I was proud of how well every single player performed on this stage. We’ve got our work cut out for us in the quarterfinals, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Wetzig and sophomore Leah Hoffee used a late service break to turn a tight 5-4 battle at No. 2 doubles into the Cougars’ first doubles point with an 8-4 win, and Azusa Pacific’s No. 3 doubles tandem of sophomore Emily Ignas and senior Jessalyn Lau ran away with 5 straight games for an 8-2 victory.
Bon and sophomore Natalie McNall had a crucial service break to take a 7-5 lead at No. 1 doubles. After failing to hold serve for the match, Bon and McNall responded with another break for the 8-6 win that completed the doubles sweep.
When the match ended, McNall and Ignas were just beginning third sets, while Hoffee was likely headed to a third set, as well, trailing 5-1 in the second set after a 6-2 opening-set win. Junior Marie Tanaka had a 6-2, 3-0 advantage when Wetzig’s victory finished the match.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 14-7 on the season, while Shorter finished the year with a 17-7 overall record.
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS CUP: Azusa Pacific has won 5 consecutive Directors’ Cup trophies, earning recognition as the best overall athletics program in the NAIA, and the Cougars’ pursuit of an NAIA-record sixth Cup hinges on national tournament finishes by 4 Azusa Pacific spring sports programs (men’s & women’s tennis and men’s & women’s track & field).
The Directors’ Cup is a prestigious awards program administered by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) that annually honors the best overall collegiate athletics programs in the country. Points are awarded to each school based on the postseason national tournament finish of a pre-determined number of men’s and women’s sports. The NAIA award is tabulated using a maximum of 6 men’s and 6 women’s sports. In tennis, an appearance in the quarterfinals has been worth 70 Directors’ Cup points, with a semifinals appearance worth 83 points.