FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - On Monday, the Ephs continued their spring break training trip with a dual against reigning National Champions and the top-ranked side in NCAA Division III women's tennis, Emory, in their final of three matches at the courts of the University of Mary Washington.
Coming in with a five-match win-streak, the Ephs looked to avenge their pair of losses to the Eagles in 2016, 5-4 in the regular season and 5-4 again in the National Championship match. In spite of their ambitions, however, the Ephs failed to secure the doubles advantage for the first time in their fledgling season, and ultimately paid the price for it, suffering a 3rd straight 5-4 loss to the seven-time NCAA Champions.
Emblematic of their failing to win the doubles advantage for the first time this season, the Ephs were also unable to capture the first point of the dual for the first time in 2017, quickly falling behind to the Eagles after Daniela Lopez and Michelle Satterfield notched an 8-2 victory at the number two position over Linda Shin and Mia Gancayco, who fell behind a break at 5-2 and could never regain a foothold in the match.
The purple and gold watched their deficit widen shortly thereafter, when the Eagles also recorded the second doubles point on Court 1. Like their teammates, Hannah Atkinson and Chloe Henderson fell behind by a break early in the match at 4-1. However, the senior-freshman duo were able to fight back against Bridget Harding and Katarina Su, clawing back a break for 5-4 and 6-5. Nevertheless, two seniors proved to be better than one, as the all-senior Eagle pairing chose that moment to reassert their advantage in the match, taking the next two games to extend the Eagles' lead to 2-0 in the overall dual.
With the match threatening to slip away from the Ephs before the singles portion had even begun, all eyes turned to Court 3, where Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng were battling it out with Paula Castro and Michelle DeMeo.
Unlike in the other two doubles matches, the Ephs were the ones who staked an early claim to the point, taking a 3-1 lead which they clung to at 5-3 as well. However, the number-three Eagles' wings would not be so easily clipped, as they broke back for a 6-5 score-line that eventually led to a decisive 8-all tiebreaker. Under pressure, the Ephs were able to flip the momentum back in their favor, winning the tiebreaker 7-2 to bring the Massachusetts team to within one point of the one from Georgia heading into singles.
Having regained a little of the momentum going into singles, the Ephs hoped they could build off their late success from doubles, and although the Ephs found success on several courts, the Eagles were swift to pounce on their prey on enough of the courts to clinch the match before the Ephs could have their say.
Harding led the charge for the blue and gold at the number one position, proving to be more than Leah Bush could handle both in the first and, more unusually, in the second. The Eph sophomore still could not manage a first-set win in a match, this time by a 6-2 margin, but she uncharacteristically was also unable to fight back in the second set for the first time this season, succumbing 6-0 to the Eagle junior.
It wasn't long before Atkinson joined her teammate in defeat, as Su made quick work of the Eph senior as well, losing only one game to the Torontonian in the number four position in the process, 6-0 and 6-1.
Needing only one more point to clinch the match and facing uncertainty on the remaining courts, Lopez delivered the decisive blow to the Ephs' hopes. The sophomore played out a tightly contested first set with Shin on Court 3, ultimately coming out on top by a 6-4 margin, before expertly sinking her teeth into the second set and not allowing the Eph senior an inch to fight back in the match, taking the second set 6-2.
Even though the match was already decided, the Ephs had the advantage through Sydney Myong and Cancio on Courts 2 and 6 respectively, while Gancayco showed brilliant resolve to fight back from a set down on Court 5.
Myong and Cancio had both won their first sets by 7-5 margins against their opponents, Satterfield and Castro respectively, and strangely enough their symmetric matches continued in the same vain in their second sets, as Cancio dispatched her Eagle senior 6-3, before Myong followed suit on her charge by the same margin a little while later.
Meanwhile on Court 5, Gancayco bounced back well from a slow start against Michelle Goodman, who had swiped the first set off the Eph junior in just seven games. The second set was a much closer affair, and Gancayco came out favorite, as the Marylander took the second set, 6-4, forcing a third-set match-tiebreaker, as opposed to a full third set since the overall dual's outcome had already been decided. Gancayco fared well in that tiebreaker, getting the better of the senior Massachusite by a 10-4 margin, to settle the overall dual score at 5-4 on the day.
"The match today was good for us," commented an upbeat Eph head coach Alison Swain, taking the positives from her team's first defeat of the season. "Emory came out strong, and I think we competed well as the match got underway. But the match also showed us where we can get better in the weeks ahead."
When asked about her team's strength in depth after three of her team's four points came from the bottom of her lineups, Swain pointed to the grit and competitiveness of her team both in matches and on the practice courts: "I'm proud of our team's effort and composure throughout, even when we were down in the match. I think all or our players have the ability to win on any given day, but I'm proud of the way we competed and I know that the way we train together as a team has helped our three-doubles team improve and raise their games as well as all our other spots."
Needing a quick rebound from their first loss of the season, the Ephs will look to find it when they make the short trip from Fredericksburg to the nation's capital on Tuesday, where they will visit Division I Georgetown in their final match before heading west for the remainder of spring break. That match tomorrow is set to get underway at 11 AM EDT.
Emory 5, Williams 4
- Harding, Bridget (EMORY) def. Bush, Leah (WILLIAMS) 6-2, 6-0
- Myong, Sydney (WILLIAMS) def. Satterfield, Michelle (EMORY) 7-5, 6-3
- Lopez, Daniela (EMORY) def. Shin, Linda (WILLIAMS) 6-4, 6-2
- Su, Katarina (EMORY) def. Atkinson, Hannah (WILLIAMS) 6-0, 6-1
- Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) def. Goodman, Melissa (EMORY) 1-6, 6-4, 1-0(4)
- Cancio, Julia (WILLIAMS) def. Castro, Paula (EMORY) 7-5, 6-3
- Harding, Bridget/Su, Katarina (EMORY) def. Atkinson, Hannah/Henderson, Chloe (WILLIAMS) 8-5
- Lopez, Daniela/Satterfield, Michelle (EMORY) def. Gancayco, Mia/Shin, Linda (WILLIAMS) 8-2
- Cancio, Julia/Zheng, Emily (WILLIAMS) def. Castro, Paula/DeMeo, Michelle (EMORY) 9-8(2)
Order of Finish:
Singles – 1, 4, 3, 6, 5, 2
Doubles - 2, 1, 3
Emory: 6-2, nationally ranked #1, regionally ranked #1 (Atlantic South)
Williams: 5-1, nationally ranked #2, regionally ranked #1 (Northeast)