AZUSA, Calif.-- The last time they played Azusa Pacific nearly handed Fresno Pacific its first-ever Golden State Athletic Conference loss in the school’s history, but instead fell 5-4 in a disappointing-yet encouraging loss that showed the Cougars just how close they were. This time, with the Sunbirds looking for their 100th straight GSAC victory, the NAIA’s 5th ranked Cougars pushed Fresno Pacific to the brink before falling 5-4 after a dramatic three-set match at No. 2 singles.
After the Sunbirds (18-4; 14-0) jumped to a 4-2 lead the Cougars (15-3; 11-2) fought back with two straight wins to knot it at 4-4. Then, with one of Azusa Pacific’s most consistent players, Leah Hoffee battling on court-two Fresno Pacific had to be worried that their skid could end just before hitting the century mark.
But in the third set Marie Boura, who didn’t play in the teams’ first meeting, took advantage of a few breaks to give the Sunbirds the win, edging out Hoffee 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the clincher. Hoffee, who sits at 14-2 in singles play this year, overcame two match points to push the contest to 5-3 and nearly broke Boura before falling for just the second time this season.
Fresno Pacific kicked off today’s match the same way it ended it, with a Boura win. Boura and Yukimo Justin registered an 8-2 victory in the day’s first result before Hoffee and Kim Koetterheinrich tied it at 1-1 with an impressive 8-2 win over Elizabeth McFeeters and Anna Mikhaylo at No. 3. In the final doubles contest the Sunbirds took a crucial lead, narrowly defeating Emily Harris and Danae Ingwaldson 9-8 (7-4) to take a 2-1 edge.
In singles Ingwaldson rattled off a quick win, beating Mikhaylova 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5 before Fresno Pacific regained the lead on Katarenea Paliivets’ 6-2, 6-3 win over Natalie McNall at No. 1. McFetters extended the advantage to 4-2 for the Sunbirds when she recorded a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Molly Ruby at No. 6.
Nakieta Hein cut it to 4-3 on her 7-6, 6-1 victory against Erika Januskova at No. 4 to improve to 13-3 in singles this year. Following Heins’s win Harris overcame a first set loss to win 12 of the next 14 games in a match-tying 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 defeat of Justin at No. 3. The win was Harris’ 11th straight, dating back to a February 24th loss against Grand Canyon.
Then with the match knotted at 4-4 and with every other court finished, all eyes were on court two as the Cougars looked to snap the Sunbirds’ historic streak. But despite an impressive effort by Hoffee Fresno Pacific came away with a 5-4 win to keep its mark perfect in conference contests. The win all-but sealed the Sunbirds the 2012 GSAC title while the Cougars solidified their standing at No. 2 in the standings.
Azusa Pacific has just four matches remaining, before traveling to Mobile, Ala. for the NAIA National Championships on May 14-19. Tomorrow at 1:15 the Cougars take on Abilene Christian (Texas) at 1:15 at the Munson & Bavougian Tennis Complex.