Grier, doubles fall in Elite 8 (Women’s tennis NCAA Championships 2004)

Nick Halpern

Northwestern was the only school to have a singles player and a doubles team alive in the women’s tennis NCAA individual tournament Thursday morning in Athens, Ga.

By the end of the day, there were no Wildcats remaining.

Sophomore Cristelle Grier and senior Jessica Rush were eliminated from the doubles tournament, and Grier lost in singles for only the third time all season, to Clemson’s Julie Coin in three sets, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

“I got back in the second set by just dictating a little more,” Grier said. “I lost some of that momentum in the third set, and (Coin) played a lot better in the third.”

Grier and Rush had knocked Coin and partner Maria Brito out of the doubles tournament the day before, but Grier said her singles match didn’t bear any resemblance to the doubles contest.

“(Coin) changed up her game quite a bit,” Grier said. “It really didn’t feel like I was playing the same person.”

It was the second consecutive season in which Grier fell in the quarterfinals of the NCAA singles tournament.

Rush and Grier got a late start to their doubles match due to the length of Grier’s match. Two of the other three doubles matches were completed by the time Rush and Grier began their match.

Grier was the only player to compete in two matches Thursday.

“I don’t think it hurt her physically,” NU coach Claire Pollard said. “I think it hurt her emotionally — it was just a disappointing loss today.”

Grier and Rush fell in straight sets to Marshall’s Jessica Johnson and Ashley Kroh, 6-4, 6-2.

“They were great,” Grier said. “They made it tough for us to get our foot in the door. We knew they would play one up and one back, so we tried to get close to make them lob, but they lobbed too well. It was just a tough match.”

With the loss, Rush’s career at NU is over, and Rush and Grier have played their final match together.

“Neither of us have really talked about it,” Grier said. “It’s just been a huge privilege to play with such a great person — not just a great doubles partner. It’s been a real honor and we’re both trying to savor it.”

When Rush came to NU, she was a sixth singles player, but she has emerged as one of the top players in the nation. She finished the regular season ranked No. 44, and defeated No. 18 Jackie Carleton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

While Rush and Grier were disappointed to lose, Pollard said the women will be proud of their run when they look back on their experience.

“Making the NCAA quarterfinals is nothing to belittle,” Pollard said. “I think now they’re disappointed because the championship was so wide open. We thought we had as good a chance of winning as anyone.”