UCSD Women's Tennis Trips Up at Division II Nationals

    Coming off of an upset win over Hawaii Pacific University, the UCSD women’s tennis team flew out to Florida last Thursday with only one thing on its mind: bringing home its first NCAA Division II National Championship.

    David Pilz

    The team had grown accustomed to being in this position in Division III, where they perennially challenged for the national title, but this was its first run in Division II.

    Unfortunately, the Tritons were quickly shown that they are not quite yet ready to grab the Division II title. They were eliminated in the first round of the tournament by Abilene Christian University (Texas) by a score of 5-2.

    The low ranking of Abilene Christian that was reported in the Guardian last week was actually a result of Abilene’s coach not handing in documents in time.

    The team actually was ranked somewhere in the middle of the top 10, making it one of the toughest opponents the Tritons faced all year.

    Abilene was strong in doubles, taking two of the three prosets from the Tritons.

    Lyndsey Tadlock, who had been chronically injured throughout the late part of the season, and Stephanie Moriarty teamed up at No. 1 doubles, as they had for most of the season. Their opponents, Leah Treer and Andrea Wildner, were too tough and took the set 8-5.

    The match at No. 2 doubles was not that close. Melisa Liao and Julie Westerman quickly lost to Lacy Johnson and Kristin Chumley, 8-3.

    No. 3 doubles was a barn-burner in the truest sense of the word. Ashley O’Neil and Mary Hung were down big early in the match but put it together when they needed to.

    “”They were down 5-2, and with a slight change in strategy, came back and won in a very exciting tie breaker,”” head coach Liz LaPlante said. “”This gave us some added confidence going into the singles.””

    The score of the tiebreaker was 7-5 in favor of the Tritons.

    The singles competition, however, was not kind to the Tritons. O’Neil took the court as the Tritons’ No. 1 player, as she did for most of the year, and was very competitive with the best player that Abilene had to offer. After losing the first set 6-4, O’Neil was up 4-1 in the second but faltered under the extreme aggression of her opponent, who won the next five games to take the second set 6-4.

    Tadlock quickly lost the first set at No. 2 singles 6-1, but found her composure in the second and was able to compete more closely. Unfortunately, she eventually did fall 6-4 in that set to lose the match.

    Julie Westerman was completely overpowered at No. 5, something that rarely happened to her during the season. Her opponent found her stride early and continued to keep the pressure on. Westerman was the first Triton off the court with a 1-6, 1-6 loss.

    Mary Hung continued her stellar play with a win at No. 6 singles. Not only did Hung win, she did so in easy fashion, handing her opponent, Velvet Canada, a crushing 6-2, 6-0 defeat.

    “”Mary deserves a lot of credit for winning against [Hawaii Pacific University] and Abilene Christian very easily,”” LaPlante said. “”She is really playing well.””

    This victory came after Hung was forced to fly out to Florida separately because a professor wouldn’t let her out of a midterm that was scheduled after the team planned to leave for nationals.

    Melisa Liao and Kristina Jansen played at No. 3 and No. 4 for the Tritons but did not finish their matches because the overall match was over before they could do so.

    Liao was looking strong after winning the second set of her match 6-0 to send her match to a third set. Jansen was making a comeback of her own. Had these matches both gone the Tritons’ way and had UCSD been able to pull out one of the other matches, they would have won.

    Despite the loss, the Tritons have nothing to be ashamed of. They finish the year with an impressive 16-6 record and finished second in the conference with a 7-1 record.

    LaPlante thought this may be a tough year because her team was so young, but she was wrong.

    “”This season the team did better then I ever thought we would in the very beginning,”” LaPlante said. “”With so many freshman and the unknown of Division II, my goal was to finish in the top two in the conference. Going to nationals was only a dream.””

    LaPlante went on to praise the work ethic and dedication of her players.

    “”This team is a group of scrappy players who fought hard to get where they are,”” LaPlante said. “”This can only help us build for next year.””

    The prospects for next season indeed look bright. LaPlante will lose only one player of this year’s squad and won’t lose any starters. The Tritons should again be near the top of the conference and may be able to compete for the national championship that eluded them this season.

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