INDIANAPOLIS - The 21st-ranked Marian University women's tennis team came back from down 4-1 to take the match to the ninth and final match, but the Knights could not complete the comeback in a 5-4 defeat to 16th-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University at the MU Tennis Courts in Indianapolis on Tuesday afternoon.
The Knights fell to 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the Crossroads League, while IWU clinched the league regular season championship and the top overall seed in the league tournament. The 5-4 win was the closest regular season match for the Wildcats in more than a decade. The last time MU and IWU got together, the Wildcats earned a 5-3 win in the 2012-13 regular season and a 6-3 win in the league tournament final last season.
"I couldn't ask for anything more from our ladies today," said sixth-year head coach Cassie Mackell
. "They came out fired up and ready to go. It was a matter of a point here and a point there, but they fought tooth and nail throughout and it came down to the last match today."
The doubles competition opened the match and IWU took a commanding 2-1 lead after picking up wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles. Senior Brittney Horlacher
and junior Hannah Knust
fell to Katie Wilson and Kim Mella at No. 1 by an 8-1 score, while seniors Olivia Pursell
and Lauren Paras
dropped their match at No. 2 by an 8-6 score. Junior Sarah Potter
and freshman Anna Potter
picked up an 8-3 win to make the score 2-1.
"That was a big win for us at three doubles today," said Mackell. "They came out fired up and ready to go. Losing was not an option."
Horlacher and Knust were defeated at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, to give IWU a 4-1 lead and put the Wildcats one win from earning the league title. However, the Knights were not about to go down easily.Sarah Potter
earned a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 3 singles to cut it to 4-2 before her sister Anna Potter
earned a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win at No. 6 singles to make it 4-3.
"Anna has grown so much within one semester of tennis," said Mackell. "I cannot imagine what is going to happen over the next few years if she keeps putting in the time and effort. Anna came out in singles, she was patient and was waiting for her time and I don't know that you would have seen that in high school. Sarah had one heck of a match at three. She fought tooth and nail for every point. She got down in the second set and refused to go a third set and came back and won. That was big for us."
Paras picked up the win in the first set of her match at No. 4 singles, 6-4, but dropped the second set by a 2-6 score to even things up.
"I think we all played our hearts out today and we battled until the end," said Paras. "It just shows that all of our hard work has paid off. I had to step up my game in the third set and really stay focused mentally and was able to get it done."
She turned around and took the third set by a 6-4 score to make it 4-4 and bring the match down to Pursell at No. 5 singles.
Pursell earned a 6-1 win in the opening set, but a furious IWU comeback evened the match in a tiebreaker 7-6 (8-6). Pursell could not withstand the comeback and, ultimately, succumbed in the third set by a 6-2 score to give IWU the 5-4 win.
"I have seen a lot of growth out of our seniors," said Mackell. "When they came in as freshmen, there was no contest between Indiana Wesleyan and us. This year it was a total 180. They had the confidence, they knew they could do it. Their mindset is different than what it was their freshman year. They are senior leaders. Lauren did a fantastic job. Olivia fought off one match point at the very end and that is huge for us as far as senior leadership."
The Knights will close the 2013 fall season on Thursday when the senior class is recognized before MU's match with Grace College (3-5; 3-4 CL) at the MU Tennis Courts. Pursell, Paras and Horlacher will be recognized in their final regular season home match. First served is slated for 3 p.m.