Washington and Lee University advanced to the NCAA Championship match after defeating Denison University 5-1 on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. The top-ranked Generals, who are currently undefeated at 28-0, have not lost to a Division III opponent since March 31, 2007 when Williams beat Washington and Lee 5-4.
Denison carried over its momentum from Tuesday’s victory into the early stages of doubles play as the Big Red earned a point from Kara Zdanowski and Erin Gorsich at #3 doubles. The tandem beat the Washington and Lee pairing of Virginia Dickinson and Kelly 8-2. The Generals stormed right back to knot the match at 1-1 when Lauren Caire and Katie Tabb defeated Marta Drane and Kristin Cobb 8-4 at the #1 doubles position. Denison and the duo of Meghan Damico and Kendra Murray held the advantage at #2 doubles before Washington and Lee and the team of Catherine Reed and Leah Weston came back to win the pivotal match 8-6.
After capturing the momentum, Washington and Lee went up 3-1 when Leah Weston defeated Erin Gorsich 6-1, 6-2 at #4 singles. The Generals added another point at #6 singles after Meg Spalitta defeated Kendra Murray 6-0, 6-4. Kelly Will captured the match for Washington and Lee when she defeated Kristin Cobb 6-3, 6-3 at the #2 singles position. When play was halted, Denison led two matches as Meghan Damico held a 6-3, 5-2 lead over Katie Tabb in #1 singles, while Kara Zdanowski was ahead of Rebecca Timmis 7-5, 0-4 in #5 singles. Lauren Caire of Washington and Lee led Marta Drane 6-3, 4-2 at #3 singles.
Both coaches noted the significance of the #2 doubles match in their post-match interviews. “We [Washington and Lee] got a big momentum swing after we came from behind to win that point,” said Eric Ishida, head coach of the Generals.
Denison head coach Peter Burling felt the same way. “We [Denison] felt like we needed to win two of the doubles points to put ourselves in a position to win. Washington and Lee is a deep team, so we need to get points when we could. It was a close match and it set the tone for singles play, but we were in the match until the very end.”
Ishida said he “felt pretty good about the level of play from the team.” “Denison is a very scrappy team and not the funnest to play. They get a lot of balls back in play forcing you to remain focused throughout a match.”
Denison, which fell to 20-4, will face Pomona-Pitzer in the third-place match on Thursday at 9 a.m. CDT, while Washington and Lee will play Williams for the national team championship at 1 p.m. CDT.