In what was one of the most exciting finishes in the five-year history of the MIAC Women’s Tennis Playoffs, the Gustavus women’s tennis team prevailed 5-2 over Carleton to claim the MIAC Playoff Title. The Gusties advanced to the championship match via a 5-0 win over Saint Benedict, while Carleton edged St. Olaf 5-3 in its semifinal match. Head Coach Jon Carlson’s Gusties have won the MIAC Playoff Championship five consecutive seasons.
“Carleton is an amazing team. We knew after we played them in the dual that it was going to be close and that we were going to have to battle hard,” said coach Carlson. “I just can’t get over what an amazing team effort it was. I’ve never seen it any better than what it was today.”
The Gusties took an early 3-0 advantage after sweeping the doubles portion of the match. Mary Roop and Megan Born put Gustavus up 1-0 with an 8-2 win over Molly Hernes and Sarah Thappa at #3 doubles, and Marianne Barau and Alex Erickson extended the lead to 2-0 with an 8-4 victory over Bridget Doyle and Anne Lombardi at #2. Sam Frank and Megan Gaard were locked in a battle that took over an hour and a half to settle against Kathryn Schmidt and Erin Gudal at #1. In the end, Frank and Gaard prevailed 9-7 to take the final doubles point and put Gustavus on top 3-0 heading into singles play.
Like she does quite often, Barau was the first Gustie done in singles, defeating Anne Lombardi 6-4, 6-0 at #3 singles to put Gustavus up 4-0. Mary Roop was forced to retire due to injury at #5 singles, giving Carleton a point and cutting the lead to 4-1. The Knights made it a 4-2 match when Erin Gudul topped Alex Erickson 6-2, 7-5 at #4 singles. At that point in the match, the remaining matches all looked to be heading for a third set and play was moved indoors because of lack of sunlight.
With Gustavus leading by two points, the match would be determined by the outcome of three matches; Frank vs. Schmidt at #1 singles, Gaard vs. Doyle at #2, and Born vs. Katherine Greenberg at #6. After going back and forth for roughly two hours, Megan Gaard gave the Gusties a lift and ended the match with a 6-1 third set win. She defeated Doyle 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 to give the Gusties the decisive fifth point and championship.
“Since spring break, Megs has been one of the absolute keys to our success this year,” said Carlson about the play of Gaard down the stretch. “This team is winning because of its effort and because they are playing for each other, and that makes it really special for a coach”
With the win, Gustavus improves to 19-9 on the season and earns the MIAC’s berth into the NCAA Regional Championships. Carleton moves to 14-5 overall with the loss. The match took nearly five hours to reach a decision.