CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Western Carolina women's tennis team closed out its historic 2017 regular season Friday with a doubleheader sweep of Southern Wesleyan and Tusculum. The two wins gave WCU 13 seasonal victories which set a new program record for wins in a season. The Catamounts broke the record which was set last season when WCU won 12 matches. It also marks the first time in program history in which WCU has had back-to-back double-digit win seasons.
Freshman Madison Riley went 2-0 on Friday in singles to capture her 15th and 16th individual victories of the season to tie the program single season record for wins. She is now tied with former Catamount great Stacia Kissell who won 16 matches in both 2014 and 2016. Kissell was at the matches on Friday as well to witness Riley join her at the top of the WCU record book.
Freshmen Jordan Strickland and Lauren McCall went 2-0 in doubles action on Friday as they increased their school record doubles win total to 17. They now have four doubles victories more than second place which is owned by Shannon Bettiol, who won 13 doubles matches in 2016, and junior Elizabeth Ansari, who has won 13 doubles matches this season. In all, the top six spots in the record book are held by Catamounts from 2016 or 2017.
"Today we had to tough out a doubleheader to end our season with two good wins," said head coach Michaela Kissell-Eddins. "We have played with the same six players all year long and there have been many tests for us to overcome. We have had to play through aching bodies and the growing pains of a young team but overall I am so proud of the girls for sticking through the tough times and still being hungry to grow as players. To end the year with the most wins in program history, Madison (Riley) tying the program record for singles wins, Jordan (Strickland) and Lauren (McCall) adding to their program doubles record, five players with 12 or more singles wins, and five players with 10 or more doubles wins feels pretty good. Even though today marks the end of our regular season, we are still just starting on our journey together to become the best team we can be. I am so excited to see what the future holds for this group and I can't wait to get a second look at the best team in our conference next week."
WCU opened the day against Southern Wesleyan and played with a lineup of just five which caused the Catamounts to forfeit No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles. Wesleyan was able to take advantage of the doubles forfeit as they won No. 2 doubles as well 7-5 to take the point. McCall and Strickland won at No. 1 doubles 6-0 but it was not enough to stop Southern from gaining the point.
Trailing 2-0 heading to singles due to the forfeit at No. 6 WCU rattled off five singles victories to win the match 5-2. Every match went just two sets with the closest contest coming at No. 5 as McCall won 6-3, 6-2.
The second match of the day was a much different story as WCU had a full lineup and the Catamounts needed every player to step up. Due to the threat of severe weather, WCU and Tusculum started the match in singles rather than doubles.
The Pioneers took an early 1-0 lead as they won at No. 1 6-0, 6-0. Riley would tie the match at one as she won 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4. The Catamounts tool their first lead of the match as Ansari won at No. 5, 6-3, 6-0. McCall would increase the lead to 3-1 as she won at No. 6, 6-2, 6-0. The Pioneers would storm back winning at No. 2 and No. 3 to tie the match at three forcing both teams to play doubles.
McCall and Strickland made quick work of No. 2 doubles winning 6-3. The Pioneers would take No. 1 doubles by the same score of 6-3 which brought the decision down to court No. 3.
Ansari and Riley battled back-and-forth with the Pioneers and with the match tied at six they were forced to play a tiebreaker. The pair would cruise to a 7-3 victory in the tiebreaker and clinch a 4-3 victory for the Catamounts.
WCU improved to 13-12 overall while Southern Wesleyan dropped to 10-7. The Pioneers who entered the match with an impressive 17-5 record counted the match as an exhibition.
The Catamounts will now focus on the 2017 Southern Conference Championship which they will face the top seed and host Furman on Friday, April 21 at 8:30 am.