The Gustavus Adolphus women’s tennis doubles team of Tara Houlihan (Sioux Falls, S.D. / Lincoln) and Lyndsey Palen (Rochester, Minn. / Lourdes) successfully defended their Division III doubles crown Monday evening with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win over DePauw’s Liz Bondi and Amrita Padda at the 2006 NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championships in Santa Cruz, California.
Houlihan and Palen started strong in the first set, taking a 5-3 lead before Bondi and Padda stormed back. The DePauw duo won four straight games to take the opening set 7-5. The Gustie tandem also started fast in the second set, jumping out to a 5-2 lead en route to a 6-3 win. The defending champions closed out the match with a 6-4 win in set number three.
The championship victory avenged an 8-6 loss to Bondi and Padda during the Midwest Invitational Dual Tournament earlier this season. It had been the only blemish on the Gustie tandem’s now 26-1 record.
By advancing to the quarterfinal round with a 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 win over Sewanee’s Gabriela Carvalho and Mary Katherine Stone, Palen assured herself of becoming the first Gustavus women’s tennis player to attain ITA All-America status four times. The last Gustie men’s tennis player to earn All-America status four times was Todd Bowlby from 1995-98. Houlihan earned All-America honors in both singles and doubles this season, by advancing past the first round in both draws.
Houlihan and Palen become only the fifth doubles tandem to repeat in the 25-year history of the Division III championships and the third consecutive to accomplish the feat. Emory’s Mary Ellen Gordon won four straight doubles titles with two different partners – Anusha Natarajan (2001-02) and Jolyn Taylor (2003-04). Gustavus is now one of six schools with two Division III doubles titles, while Houlihan and Palen are the ninth and tenth individuals, respectively, to win at least two Division III doubles titles.