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Westmont’s Season Ends in Second Round of Nationals

The women's tennis team loses 5-1 to No. 3 Azusa Pacific in the NAIA tournament.

When the NAIA released its women’s tennis preseason poll on Feb. 6, Westmont couldn’t be found. On Tuesday, a remarkable season for the No. 12 Warriors (11-11), which saw freshmen starting in the top three singles positions, came to an end in the second round of the NAIA National Tournament as they lost 5-1 to No. 3 Azusa Pacific (17-5).

"Every person’s match was considerably improved over when we played Azusa Pacific back in February," head coach Kathy LeSage said. "I’m proud that we were able to show who we are now. We have shown improvement in every match this year. You can’t play scared when you are playing the No. 3 team, and I’m proud that we didn’t play scared today."

Azusa Pacific picked up the first team point of the match with an 8-2 win by Bay Daniels and Sheryl Bon at No. 1 doubles over Westmont freshmen Lauren Combs and Erin McGurty.

Meanwhile, a good bit of drama was building on courts two and three. Juniors Christina Klein and Kristen Lee won six games in a row to record an 8-6 Westmont win on court three over Kim Tran and Lindsey Cloninger, thereby tying the match at one point for each team.

The No. 2 doubles match was even closer. Down 7-6, Westmont senior Jennie Dunn, playing in her final collegiate match, and freshman Ilissa Mathews, broke then held serve to take an 8-7 advantage. But the Cougars’ duo of Katy Jelsma and Casey Wetzig held serve to tie the match at eight all and force a tiebreaker. Jelsma and Wetzig prevailed in the tiebreaker 7-5 to Azusa Pacific a 2-1 lead going into the singles matches.

"The doubles matches set a tone for the singles matches," LeSage said. "We started singles play a little bit lackluster but finished strong, as we did in doubles. Azusa Pacific was one player weaker than when we played them in February. So they are a stronger team now that Katy Jelsma has returned to their lineup."

In singles action, Bay defeated Combs 6-0, 6-3 at nNo. 1 and Bon posted a 6-0, 6-2 victory over
McGurty at No. 3. The Cougars also won at number five where Tran defeated Klein 6-1, 6-3. Those three victories gave Azusa Pacific the necessary five points to secure the team victory.

Under tournament procedures, once a team earns its fifth point, any unfinished matches are suspended. When play was stopped, Westmont’s Ilissa Mathews was attempting to close out her match against Casey Wetzig at No. 2. After winning the first set 6-2, Mathews was leading the second set 4-3.

On court four, Lee was pursuing a comeback against Jelsma. After dropping the first set 1-6, Lee trailed 2-3 in the second set. Dunn was also trying to reverse a 3-6 first set loss on court number six and was tied with Cloninger 2-2 in the second set.

"This has been one of my favorite nationals," said Dunn, the veteran of three national tournaments. "I felt like I played my best and gave my best effort. That is what is most important to me. Even though we didn’t win today, I felt like this was one of the best matches that I’ve had in all four years. It was really fun to play. I think we showed people that we belonged here."

"Jennie has been an anchor for us at No. 6," LeSage said, "but that carries over into far more than
just tennis. She welcomed the leadership position that she had this year. She was like the big sister to the other players. She has the veteran quality of handling the pressure of being expected to win."

"Playing tennis at Westmont has been one of the best learning experiences I have had at Westmont," Dunn said. "I have learned to deal with different types of people and been exposed to them in different situations. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I react to people. I’ve been able to apply so many things about tennis to a larger scope of life. I’ve learned to play tennis ball by ball, and learned to take life step by step and moment by moment. Being a part of this team has provided me with so much joy and has given me goals to pursue outside of academics.

"I love my teammates," Dunn continued. "They are like my sisters. We are in tune with one another, and I appreciate their hard work and effort as well as their graciousness toward one another and toward our opponents."

Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.

NAIA National Tournament Round Two – Azusa Pacific 5 Westmont 1
No. 1 – Bay Daniels (APU) def. Lauren Combs (WC) 6-0, 6-3
No. 2 – Ilissa Mathews (WC) vs. Casey Wetzig (APU) 6-2, 4-3 (DNF)
No. 3 – Sheryl Bon (APU) def. Erin McGurty (WC) 6-0, 6-2
No. 4 – Kristen Lee (WC) vs. Katy Jelsma (APU) 1-6, 2-3 (DNF)
No. 5 – Kim Tran (APU) def. Christina Klein (WC) 6-1, 6-3
No. 6 – Jennie Dunn (WC) vs. Lindsey Cloninger (APU) 3-6, 2-2 (DNF)
No. 1 – Sheryl Bon/Bay Daniels (APU) def. Lauren Combs/Erin McGurty (WC) 8-2
No. 2 – Katy Jelsma/Casey Wetzig (APU) def. Jennie Dunn/Ilissa Mathews (WC) 9-8 (5)
No. 3 – Kristen Lee/Christina Klein (WC) def. Kim Tran/Lindsey Cloninger (APU) 8-6

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