Abilene Christian's women's tennis team completed their first season in the Southland Conference with convincing victories over league rivals Central Arkansas and Oral Roberts on a beautiful Friday at the Eager Tennis Pavilion.
The back-to-back wins give the Wildcats an overall record of 17-5 and impressive 9-3 mark against the Southland. They'll play again next weekend in Omaha, Neb., at a National Invitational Tournament against other NCAA DI transitional teams from Nebraska-Omaha, Grand Canyon and New Jersey Tech.
"We're not through yet, in fact, we're treating next week's event like it's nationals - that's why we're calling it the National Invitational Tournament," said head coach Hutton Jones. "I feel like with this sweep we won regionals today, and so now we're headed back to nationals. We have to keep this feeling going."
And much like previous NCAA DII regional tournaments hosted by ACU, the Wildcats today won quickly and decisively as they followed a 6-1 win over the Bears (12-10, 5-7 SLC) with a shortened 4-0 triumph over the Golden Eagles (3-16, 0-12 SLC).
ACU beat Oral Roberts in doubles by scores of 8-4, 8-3 and 8-0 before picking up three straight-set wins at No. 3, 5 and 6. Junior Brittney Reed was the first to finish as her opponent, Melanie Marlin, retired with the score 6-1, 5-0. Sophomore Kaysie Hermsdorf then picked up a 6-0, 6-1 win over Nika Munoz and senior Emily Conrad ripped Mairead Cleary, 6-1, 6-0.
The three remaining singles matches were left unfinished as ORU will play again tomorrow in its season finale at Hardin-Simmons.
With four wins today, Conrad improved to 11-10 in singles and 15-9 in doubles, all of which have come alongside sophomore Nada Marjanovic.
A native of Oklahoma City and two-time Lone Star Conference all-academic honoree, Conrad provided a steady and quiet presence in the back end of the Wildcats' lineup over the past four seasons. She went 15-6 as a freshman, and as a sophomore, finished tied for third on the team with 21 victories. Her junior year featured 14 wins against just two losses, which were to players from top-ranked Armstrong Atlantic and UT-San Antonio.
All-America Micah Hermsdorf, meanwhile, recorded two victories today in lifting her season singles' and doubles' records to 17-6 and 19-5.
Micah Hermsdorf moved into the top spot following the departure of Julia Mongin, and couldn't have done a much better job responding to the challenge that awaited her. The Spring, Texas, native began her final year by going deep through several rounds at five fall tournaments before taking off during dual-match season, winning 17 of 21 decisions at the No. 1 position. Additionally, nine of her wins were against Southland opposition, making her an ideal candidate for first team all-conference honors.
Micah Hermsdorf also could make first-team all-conference in doubles as she and her sister, Kaysie, went 17-3 at No. 1 and 8-3 against the league. The sisters began the spring on a 12-match winning streak with their first loss taking place on March 21 against a very good duo from Northwestern State.
In addition to being named an ITA all-America in doubles with Hannah Kelley at the end of her sophomore year, Micah Hermsdorf has earned several all-Lone Star Conference citations, including being named its Academic Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013. Last year she also received second team Academic All-America honors from Capital One and CoSIDA, and will again be nominated for that distinction this spring.
"I'm very happy for these girls," said Jones, "because we knew it was going to be tough coming back from last year (reaching national semifinals). But we ended up finishing high (top four) in the conference, and these ladies really helped give our program an identity in DI.
"Everyone here associated with this program is an absolute blessings to me. And as for Micah and Emily, they're both just quality people - hard to find much better than the two of them."
Against Central Arkansas, ACU entered singles ahead 1-0 and quickly received a 6-1, 6-0 win from Reed at No. 2 over Kelsey Williams, and then freshman Erin Walker dispatched Kristina Horsikyan, 7-5, 6-2, to put the home team up 3-0.
Marjanovic made it a 4-0 game and clinched the team victory with her 7-6 (3), 6-2 decision at No. 5 over against Krizia Buckin, and later Micah Hermsdorf and Conrad padded ACU's lead with wins at No. 1 and 6.
Hermsdorf topped Simona Horsikyan, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) at the top postion, while Conrad came back from a set down to beat Bianca Strukelj, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 1-0 (10-5).
The doubles point did not come easily for the Wildcats. Reed and Walker were neck and neck with Cassidy Crawford and Simona Horsikyan before ending the match on a 3-0 run to win 8-4, and at No. 3, Marjanovic and Conrad let a comfortable 6-3 lead slip away to Sasha Ruocco and Buck. But the Wildcats came back to tie the score at 7-7 and then cruised through the tiebreaker portion, 7-1.
Micah and Kaysie Hermsdorf were trailing, 7-6, at No. 1 when their match was halted.
ACU's win over Central Arkansas snapped the Bears' five-game conference winning streak.
"It was very satisfying to have exceeded expectations this season," said Jones. "Both our teams were in the hunt (for first place) until the very end, and that's after we lose three starters on the women's side, including two All-Americas (Julia Mongin and Hannah Kelley), and Hans Hach, who was the best player we've ever had here.
"Our division I competition started in January, and boom, we get right after it playing Harvard, Oregon and Indiana ... and even though I knew we wouldn't lay down, I wasn't sure how we'd respond. But from that weekend onward, we stepped up to the competition ... and again, I came away really impressed with the Southland Conference. We had no idea how tough it was going to be, but it's quite something to see seven of those schools ranked among the top 125 of the 400 who play."
Abilene Christian 6, Central Arkansas 1
Apr 18, 2014 at Abilene, Texas (Eager Tennis Pavilion)