May 17, 2012
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MOBILE, Ala. – Defending champion and top-seeded Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) got all it could handle from eighth-seeded Concordia (Calif.) on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the 2012 NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championships. In the end, the powerhouse Warhawks prevailed 5-2 behind key performances towards the bottom of the lineup, allowing them to join the semifinal field once again.
“I knew Concordia was going to be a tough match,” Auburn Montgomery head coach Rolando Vargas said. “When we played their doubles, I thought they were definitely better than I thought. They had good depth. One through 6 they had really good players.
“I give a lot of credit to Concordia. They were fighting to the end. Even when they were down a couple matches, they were still fighting like they were up.”
The Eagles snagged a victory at No. 2 doubles as Johanna Sceresini and Kirstin Yep teamed for an 8-4 decision over Tiffany William and Hagar Caro, while also taking No. 3 singles as Sceresini picked up her second win of the day (7-6, 6-4). But the standout performance from Sceresini could not overcome Morgane Zowczak, who won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 4 singles, and the tournament favorite Warhawks.
“I definitely have to go with Morgane Zowczak at No. 4 (as an individual who stood out),” Vargas said. “She had so much emotion when she started. Playing doubles, she was fired up. She was ready for this moment. She made it look easy.”
Auburn Montgomery’s semifinal opponent, fourth-seeded Oklahoma Christian, found its quarterfinal match with Azusa Pacific (Calif.) to be anything but easy. The Eagles overcame a 2-1 disadvantage at the conclusion of doubles play to advance to the semifinals for the first time ever after a 5-3 win.
“Our nerves got the best of us in doubles,” Oklahoma Christian head coach Kris Miller said. “We didn’t play well, even at number one, where we won. It was a good thing, though, because it allows you to get on them a lot and challenge them a little bit in between the singles and doubles to come out intense and focused. I thought we got on top of them early on enough courts in singles that we did well.”
Other than Emily Harris’ 6-0, 6-1 domination at No. 3 singles for Azusa Pacific, the Eagles had their way in singles, including at No. 1 where Hermon Brhane (ranked the No. 3 singles player in the NAIA by the ITA) cruised, 6-3, 6-1.
Second-seeded Fresno Pacific also ran into much greater resistance in the quarterfinal round in a meeting with No. 7 Brenau (Ga.). Sunbird head coach Neil Castro admitted his team’s performance was less than its best despite the 5-2 win.
On the other hand, the Golden Tigers played admirably in defeat. Brenau’s Lyn See Choo topped Fresno Pacific’s Katarena Paliivets 6-4, 6-3 in a battle of the ITA’s fourth- and fifth-rated singles players.
“Lyn See has had a tremendous season this year, beating some of the top players in the NAIA,” Brenau head coach Andre Ferreira said. “I knew she had a chance, but I also knew Fresno was really strong at No. 1 just like every other team. So I was really happy for Lyn See. She’s a senior and she wanted it bad.”
The Sunbirds move on to the semifinals for the sixth-straight season and will play third-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.), which ousted No. 11 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 5-0 in the quarters. The Eagles ended the Blue Raiders’ improbable run to the quarters by sweeping doubles, including an 8-0 win at No. 3, and by winning all but one game at Nos. 2 and 6 singles. In addition, Embry-Riddle’s Yi Ching Chen, No. 1 singles and doubles, neutralized the hot hand of Lindsey Wilson’s Trina Slapeka.
The semifinals begin Friday at 9 a.m. Oklahoma Christian is the only participant remaining that did not advance to the round of four in 2011.