AZUSA, Calif. -- It hasn’t had to do it much this year, but the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific responded to a loss with another convincing victory, scoring its first 9-0 victory over Vanguard since 2002 Friday afternoon at the Munson & Bavougian Tennis Complex.
Monday’s 7-2 loss to Fresno Pacific was Azusa Pacific’s worst in a regular-season match since 2009, but the Cougars came off the loss for a 9-0 win for the second straight time. This time it came against an NAIA Top 10 foe in Vanguard, which was ranked 10th in the most recent NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll.
“It was nice to see how well the team rebounded from Monday’s match,” Cougar head coach Mark Bohren said. “Now we have to make sure we’re just as ready for another tough match this coming Monday against Concordia.”
Senior Sheryl Bon-Bakalov pulled away after a tight opening set, posting a 7-5, 6-1 victory for her first win in 5 tries this year against the top singles player from a team ranked in the NAIA’s Top 10. Junior Natalie McNall picked up her first 3-set win of the year with a 7-5, 5-7, 11-9 win over Kateryna Malakhova at No. 2 singles, and freshman Kim Koetterheinrich also had a 3-set win with a 6-1, 4-6, 10-8 victory over Ekaterina Gabashvili at the No. 3 position.
“We challenged some of our top players to step up for the team this week,” Bohren said. “We did that because it’s an entire team effort that gives us a chance to advance deep into the national tournament this year. It was nice to see them answer our challenge with wins today, and it was an all-around great team effort.”
The rest of the Cougars’ singles lineup made quick work of their Vanguard counterparts, winning the fourth, fifth, and sixth singles matches by a combined 36-1 games margin. Freshman Emily Harris and senior Casey Wetzig had perfect 6-0, 6-0 wins at No. 4 and 5, respectively, while sophomore Sarita Adhikary improved her career singles record to a perfect 10-0 with a 6-1, 6-0 win at the No. 6 spot.
McNall and freshman Molly Ruby recorded an 8-0 win at No. 3 doubles that got the match off to a quick strong start for Azusa Pacific. Junior Leah Hoffee and Wetzig notched an 8-2 win at the No. 2 doubles position, and Bon teamed up with Harris for an 8-6 win at the top of the doubles lineup.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 15-3 overall, 9-3 GSAC, while Vanguard falls to 8-6 overall and 6-5 in conference play. The Cougars host the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Concordia on Monday, April 4, as it enters the back half of 6 consecutive home matches.