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Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Westmont Opens NAIA Tournament against Host Mobile

Twelfth-seeded Warriors ready for challenges of postseason play.

No. 25 Mobile will feel right at home when it takes on No. 12 Westmont in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament on May 12. The Warriors drew the women’s tennis championship’s host institution.

"They have a little advantage in that they are probably training on a daily basis at the facility where we are going to be playing," said Westmont head coach Kathy LeSage, "and they are used to the hot and muggy weather conditions."

Mobile finished third in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference behind No. 13 Xavier (La.) and unranked Spring Hill (Ala.). At the Region XIII tournament, Mobile lost to Xavier in the quarterfinals, 5-1. The Rams’ loss was a reversal of the conference tournament in which Mobile claimed the championship with a 5-4 win.

"There was a lineup change between the conference championship match and the regional match," noted LeSage, who has been studying up on the Rams since the brackets were released. "Mobile’s top player, Josy Soares, didn’t play in the regional match. She definitely makes a difference in their lineup.

"In singles, I think they will be decent in the Nos. 1 and 2 positions," LeSage continued. "The middle and lower part of our lineup is going to have to do the work, which has been true the whole season for us. The big mystery is going to be at the No. 6 position. Their No. 6 player easily handled Xavier’s No. 6, but I don’t know how strong her opponent was."

Senior Jenny Dunn will take on the challenge at No. 6 while juniors Kristen Lee and Christina Klein will play at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. LeSage is counting on the leadership of her upperclassmen, all of whom have national tournament experience.

"We have three players who have been to nationals before and they are so excited to be going again," LeSage said. "Two of those three were like deer in the headlights as freshman. Now they know to go into the match looking to make things happen rather than just letting things happen. I am looking forward to their leadership.

"I have told my players that we have built throughout the season and this is the time to peak," she said. "We need to rest in the confidence that we have played very tough opponents throughout the season and have been thoroughly prepared by that competition."

While LeSage has no direct knowledge of the Mobile team, she is confident the Rams will prove to be worthy opponents.

"I have a point of reference, which is that Mobile had three close losses to Xavier," LeSage explained. "Xavier came out to California and beat Concordia and Concordia beat us. Even though Xavier lost handily to the top teams in our conference, their win over Concordia makes me think Mobile is going to be a pretty decent team."

To prepare her players for an unknown opponent, LeSage has enlisted the help of several people.

"Our training is going pretty well," she said. "The team is getting in a lot of match play and is starting to feel like they were when the season ended. I have brought in alumni and others who are unfamiliar to our players so that they can get used to making in-game adjustments against an unknown opponent."

Westmont and Mobile will face off at 7 a.m. PDT Monday at the Mobile Tennis Center. The winner will take on No. 3 Azusa Pacific (16-5). As one of the top eight seeds, the Cougars have a first-round bye. The second round game will be played at 7 a.m. PDT Tuesday.

Other matchups involving Golden State Athletic Conference teams include fourth-seeded Vanguard, which will take on the winner of Xavier and McKendree (Ill.). Second ranked Fresno Pacific will await the winner of the matchup between No. 15 Indiana Wesleyan and No. 22 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). Sixth ranked California Baptist will play the winner of the match between No. 11 Cumberland (Tenn.) and Bethany (Kan.). No. 16 Point Loma Nazarene will pair up with No. 17 Olivet Nazarene in the first round, with the winner taking on heavily
favored top seed Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.).

Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.

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