Women’s Tennis: Elimination in College Station: Bears knock off Cats

Bill Carey

All season long, No. 1 Northwestern said things would be different this year.

In the end, it was all the same.

For the second straight year, top-seeded NU fell to No. 8 California, 4-2, in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, ending the Wildcats’ national title hopes prematurely. After holding the No. 1 ranking for the entire season, the Cats fell short again, in their third trip to the quarterfinals in the last four years.

Even if the results were the same, coach Claire Pollard said NU’s level of play was not.

“We had chances,” Pollard said. “It was a lot different than last year. It really shows we are a lot of better than we were last year. We just ran into a better team.”

The Cats (28-2, 10-0 Big Ten) started slow in Sunday night’s matchup, dropping the doubles point for only the second time this season.

NU’s struggles continued when singles play began, as the team fell behind quickly in four of the six matches.

It looked as if the Golden Bears would advance easily to the next round.

“There was definitely a point where we could have given up and lost quickly,” senior Georgia Rose said. “But we didn’t. We fought really hard. I was really proud of how we played.”

After dropping her first set 6-0, senior Keri Robison took the next two sets to pick up a win and momentarily tie the score at one. Robison was rattled, but knew she could recover.

“I felt very uncomfortable out there,” Robison said. “I thought ‘I need to make a match of this,’ and a few things started going my way.”

But only seconds after Robison finished off her win, the nation’s top-ranked singles player, Maria Mosolova fell in the first singles slot to give the Golden Bears a 2-1 lead.

After losing her first set, 6-1, senior Nazlie Ghazal battled back to grab a three-set victory. Knotted at two, three matches were ongoing, and all of them were in a third-and-decisive set.

After going back and forth all night, junior Samantha Murray finally lost a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 battle in third singles. Moments later, senior Georgia Rose fell in second singles, closing out the match and NU’s hopes for a national championship.

The loss ended one of the most successful seasons in school history. NU became the first Big Ten school to win the Indoor Team Championships, beating four of the nation’s top six teams in the process. The Cats also won their 11th consecutive Big Ten championship.

Despite being unable to break its cold-weather curse, NU appeared on track toward its first national championship. The Cats advanced to the quarterfinals for only the third time in school history, picking up a 4-0 victory Friday against No. 16 Fresno State.

NU grabbed the doubles point in that match behind an upset victory in the first doubles slot. NU’s 24th-ranked doubles team, Georgia Rose and Lauren Lui, took down the nation’s top-ranked pair, Fresno State’s Anastasia Petukhova and Renata Kucerkova, 8-6. In singles play, Rose and Robison struck quickly for the Cats, before Lui picked up the decisive point in the fourth slot.

Even though NU was unable to advance to the semifinals for the first time in school history, Pollard said she feels more confident heading into future NCAA tournaments.

“I now know it is possible for us to win this tournament,” Pollard said. “It doesn’t matter that we are a cold-weather team, that we don’t have a strong schedule in the month of April. We can win this tournament.”

For the seniors, this year’s result leaves a bad taste in their mouth. But the Cats’ veterans are choosing to relish the sweet moments throughout the season.

“Obviously, our goal was to win the tournament,” Robison said. “But it would be pretty bad if we looked back and said this wasn’t a great season. To say it wasn’t a success just wouldn’t be right.”

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