WTen: Westmont falls to No. 1 Georgia Gwinnett in NAIA Championship

(MOBILE, Ala.) “Before the match began this afternoon, we talked about a quote from the movie Miracle that says ‘All great moments are born from great opportunity,’” opened head women’s tennis coach Kendyll McManigal. “We had the opportunity to play a talented team today. It was our goal to stay focused and inspired towards greatness the entire match.”

Going up against a defending National Championship team is no easy feat, but this afternoon the Westmont women’s tennis team gave #1 Georgia Gwinnett a run for their money in the second round of the NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championship. The Warriors opened with a burst of energy in doubles play to take a 2-1 lead going into singles play, but eventually fell 5-2 to the reigning NAIA National Champions.

This season, doubles play has proved to be a strongpoint for the Warrior women and this afternoon they did not disappoint.  While Grace Davis and Emily Keach lost 0-8 on court number three, the other two Warriors duos made up some ground to put Westmont up 2-1.

On court number two, Haley Strandness and Alyson Meyer played exceptionally consistent and well, winning their match 8-5 to tie up the teams at 1-1. Court number one featured the normal pairing of Lauren Stratman and Ines Costamagna. But today was anything but regular for them, since Georgia Gwinnett is the school that Ines transferred from after her 2014 season. Ironically, her singles match for the Grizzlies last year was the one that solidified their National Championship title. Facing old teammates is never an easy task, but Ines came out with fire in her eyes. With the help of Lauren Stratman they won their match against top ranked players Podda and Wehner 9-8 in a tiebreaker that went to 7-4.

“Ines and Lauren beat one of the very best teams in the country, after seven match points this afternoon. To close it out in the tiebreaker, with the whole crowd cheering for Georgia Gwinnett was really, really impressive,” exclaimed McManigal. “Number two doubles played exceptional as well. We knew that it was going to be a grind, so there was a quite a bit of excitement after winning two of the three early on.”

With their doubles win, Stratman and Costamagna close out their 2015 season together at 22-1, without dropping a single doubles match to any NAIA team.

Singles play proved to be even more of a grind later on in the day. With a very talented team, Georgia Gwinnett started to earn wins left and right. Helga Piones defeated Emily Keach 6-0, 6-0 on court number six, while Chiara di Salvo defeated Alyson Meyer 6-0, 6-0 on court number five. This quickly put the Grizzlies up 3-2 overall. “Georgia Gwinnett won five and six doubles pretty quickly. With a deep roster, they outmatched us at both of those positions and I think my girls knew that. We tried to keep them on the court and playing as long as we could,” explained McManigal.

Grace Davis was the next to finish up on court three with a close match and scores but lost 6-3, 6-2 after Judith van Fraaijenh was able to pull away with a lead. With courts one and two still playing, the match came down to court number four featuring Haley Strandness and Luma Schwab. The Grizzlies swept the first set 6-0, but in the second Haley was able to rally back and put herself within two points of winning. In the end, Georgia Gwinnett won set two 6-4, clinching the final team point to win the match 5-2.

Although unable to finish, Lauren Stratman played unbelievably well on court number one, earning scores of 6-1, 2-6 and was on her way to winning the third set. Ines Costamagna was in the number two singles position with a 7-5 first set win and was within one point of winning the second set when the match was called. She ended with final scores of 7-5, 5-2.

“Today was great. I don’t think we could have asked for a better match against the number one team and the defending National Champions. I think we tired Georgia Gwinnett out and really made them nervous,” reflected McManigal. “We never stopped believing in ourselves. Until you are really tested, you never know how much you can give. And today my girls were tested and they laid it all on the line for each other. We now absolutely know that we can compete with the top in the country.”

The Warriors will close out their 2015 season with a record of 14-10.