SPARTANBURG, S.C. - For the first time all season, Southern Conference Player of the Year Ansley Speaks dropped a set to a SoCon opponent as freshman Jordan Strickland of the Western Carolina women's tennis team picked up a 6-1 second set victory as the Catamounts fell to the top-seeded Furman Paladins 4-0 Friday at the 2017 Southern Conference Championship. The set victory would not be enough to lift the Catamounts who lost the doubles point and fell at No. 2, No. 3 and No. 6 singles.
"I thought we competed really well today," said head coach Michaela Kissell-Eddins. "Furman has really been dominate over everyone this year in conference and we definitely made them earn it today. I'm proud of the fight we put up and the fact that we believed we could make a match of it despite it being very lopsided in regular season. Even though she didn't get to finish her match for Jordan to take a set off of the four-time SoCon Player of the Year is a big accomplishment and shows how much potential she has to be very dangerous in conference. Overall, I hope the girls take from this year that we are closing the gap between the other conference schools and that we can beat anyone on any given day. If this group puts in hard work over summer and next fall I believe they will be ready to start winning some of those conference matches that were so close this year."
The tandem of freshmen Lauren McCall and Strickland dropped the No. 2 doubles match to Katty Weymouth and Danni Vines 6-1. The Paladins clinched the doubles point when the junior Elizabeth Ansari and freshman Madison Riley fell 6-1 to Katarina Kozarov and Blair Martin at No. 3.
With Furman clinching the doubles point, the No. 1 doubles contest was halted with WCU's Savannah Taranto and Alexa Webb trailing Aryn Greene and Speaks, 5-2.
The Paladins went ahead 3-0 when No. 3 singles Webb lost 6-0, 6-0 to Vines in straight sets, and Taranto dropped the No. 2 match 6-1, 6-3 to Weymouth.
The clinching point came at No. 6 when McCall fell to Greene 6-2, 6-2 to end the Catamounts record breaking season.
With the overall match clinched, the No. 1 contest was stopped as WCU's Strickland was tied with Speaks in the third set, 3-3, after dropping the first set 6-1 and winning the second set 6-1. No. 4 was stopped with Riley trailing 5-1 in the second set, after falling 6-3 in the opening set. The final match which went unfinished was Ansari and Ferrett. Ansari trailed in the second set 5-4 after falling 6-2 in the first set.
The Purple & Gold finished the 2017 campaign 13-13 which represents the most wins in program history. The Catamounts return their entire lineup next season and will add some talented freshmen. Strickland and McCall set the program record for doubles wins in a season while Riley tied the program record for singles wins in a season.