MOBILE, Ala.-- The Cougar women’s tennis team’s bid for its first-ever national championship ended on Thursday when Azusa Pacific fell 5-2 to Fresno Pacific in the National Christian College Athletics Association semifinal. The Cougars (18-8) trailed 2-1 following doubles, and after Kim Koetterheinrich knotted the match at 2-2 with a quick win the Sunbirds won at courts one, two and three to advance to the championship match, and end Azusa Pacific’s season.
“I thought we played well today, and I was proud of the way the girls competed. It’s been a great year. We returned only two of our top-six singles players from last year and really played well from the get-go. It’s always tough to have your season end, but we have no seniors and everyone’s coming back so we’re excited for what we can do next year,” said head coach Mark Bohren. “This team should be proud of its season. The girls beat Fresno Pacific for the first time early in the year, and all season long the entire team has had a great attitude.”
The Sunbirds took No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, with Samantha Kaneta and Danae Ingwaldson falling to 13th ranked Marie Boura and Petra Jurova, while Koetterheinrich and Emily Harris dropped an 8-4 match to Erika Januskova and Katarena Paliivets. Stephanie Quan and Brejohn McCrary gave Azusa Pacific its lone doubles win, defeating Anna Mikhaylova and Nicole Simoni 8-2.
In singles Koetterheinrich blew by Erin Carlson in a 6-1, 6-0 drubbing to make it a 2-2 match, but the Sunbirds’ strength at the top was too much for the Cougars to overcome. 19th ranked Boura started things off with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 38 Harris, and No. 26 Jurova followed that up with a 6-3, 6-0 win against Ingwaldson.
McCrary lost a tough first set 7-5, and eventually dropped the second set 6-2 against Paliivets to give the Sunbirds the win. Kaneta and Yeom each lost their first set and were early in the second when the match was clinched.
The loss ends a season in which the Cougars were ranked in the NCAA Division II top-30 all year, with Azusa Pacific holding onto the NCCAA’s top-ranking for the majority of the season.