AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific suffered its first regular-season non-conference defeat since 2009 when unranked NCAA Div. II Cal State L.A. rallied from a 4-1 deficit to win all 4 remaining singles matches and hand the Cougars a 5-4 defeat Monday afternoon at the Munson & Bavougian Tennis Complex.
Azusa Pacific quickly won the first 2 doubles matches, but Cal State L.A. won the final 3 sets of the No. 3 doubles match to post an 8-6 win and pick up what turned out to be a crucial point in the match. Although the Cougars quickly won the No. 5 and No. 6 singles matches in straight sets to take a 4-1 lead, Cal State L.A. was solid at the top of the singles lineups with wins in the opening set in 3 of the top 4 singles matches.
After suffering straight-set defeats at No.3 and 4 singles that cut its lead in the match to 4-3, Azusa Pacific needed to win 1 of the 2 singles matchups that went to 3 sets. At No. 1 singles, senior Sheryl Bon-Bakalov posted a 6-3 opening-set win, but Cal State L.A.’s Christy Lau, ranked No. 27 in the NCAA Div. II individual singles rankings, forced a third set with a 6-2 second set that evened the match
When Lau pulled away for a 6-1 third-set victory, Azusa Pacific’s hopes rested on the shoulders of freshman Emily Harris in the No. 2 singles match. Harris, who was edged in a 7-5 opening set, fought off a match point in the second-set tiebreaker for 3 straight points and an 8-6 tiebreaker win that forced a third set. Harris never led in the third set, giving up a service break to Larn McShane to fall behind, 4-1, and McShane’s second service break came after Harris fought off 2 other match points while trailing 5-2.
The 3-set No. 2 singles win for McShane gave Cal State L.A. its second win in 5 days over an NAIA Top-10 Golden State Athletic Conference opponent, following an April 7 6-3 win over No. 10-ranked Vanguard. The Golden Eagles are now 6-12 overall.
For Azusa Pacific, it was its first loss in a regular-season non-conference match since March 18, 2009, a 5-4 defeat to NCAA Div. III Amherst (Mass.). Monday’s defeat snapped an 11-match non-conference winning streak that included 4 consecutive wins against NCAA Div. II competition.
In doubles, Bon-Bakalov and Harris scored an impressive 8-2 win over Lau and McShane, who appear at No. 23 in the NCAA Div. II doubles rankings. The Cougars also collected an 8-4 doubles win at No. 2 from senior Casey Wetzig and junior Leah Hoffee, who improved their doubles record together to 11-3 this year. Hoffee and Wetzig also posted both of Azusa Pacific’s singles victories, giving the pair a combined 30 wins in 33 singles matches this season.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 17-4 on the year and loses an opportunity to become the first team in program history to post 20 wins in the regular season. Three other Cougar teams have posted 20-win campaigns (2004, 2005, 2006), but all 3 reached the 20-win mark in postseason play. The Cougars are back in action Tuesday, visiting Westmont in a GSAC match that begins at noon in Santa Barbara.