CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Ephs returned to action on Saturday for a contest with their hosts from the previous day, the fifth-ranked Athenas of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Though the Ephs won last year's regular-season contest by a 7-2 margin at a neutral site in Atlanta, Georgia, the west-coast side maximized their home-court advantage this time around to avenge their loss from 2016 with a 6-3 win against their east-coast rivals.
The Athenas came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in doubles, as they rushed out to two quick wins on Courts 1 and 2, combining to concede only three games to the pair of Eph partnerships. Lindsay Brown and Nicole Tan bested the top Eph duo of Hannah Atkinson and Chloe Henderson, 8-2, and Catherine Allen and Katie Kuosman managed one better at the number two position, dismissing Leah Bush and Mia Gancayco, 8-1.
As seems to consistently be the case, the final doubles point was a much closer affair, as the ever-reliable pairing of Julia Cancio and Emily Zheng dug their heels in and fought hard to earn a point for the Ephs and keep the Athenas within touching distance going into the singles portion, thanks to an 8-5 score line against the doubles team of Kyla Scott and Madison Shea.
In singles, the Ephs knew that they had to make up ground if they wanted to fashion a second straight victory, but the Athenas again came out strong and silenced the Ephs before they could truly engineer a comeback.
The singles matches on Courts 2, 3, and 6 all produced wins for the cardinal and gold, which was enough to clinch the match for the home team.
Brown started the flood of singles points in favor of the Athenas at the number six position, battling out a 6-3 first set against the Ephs' Henderson, but then cruising to a 6-0 second set to double the Athenas' overall dual lead.
Next off the court was Allen, who enjoyed a 6-1 first set against Gancayco on Court 3, before outlasting the Eph junior in a tougher second set, 6-4, before she could lay her hands on the Athenas' fourth point of the afternoon.
Needing only one point more to reach the necessary five to clinch the match, Tan delivered the goods for the Californians, as she bested Sydney Myong in straight sets, 6-1 and 6-2, to put the match beyond the reach of the purple and gold.
Nevertheless, the Ephs continued to fight, and admirable performances from the Ephs' Bush and Cancio ensured that the Ephs would not be blanked in the singles portion.
Bush - who has already had her fair share of three-set matches this season for the Ephs at the number one position - endured another one on Saturday after she and her opponent, Scott, traded a pair of 6-4 sets. Since the match had already been decided, the two played out a match-tiebreaker in lieu of a full third set, and it proved to be an instant classic. Down 9-7 and needing to save two match points, the Eph sophomore didn't let her team down, pegging the Athena junior back twice for 9-all, before the two traded points back-and-forth until 13-all, when Bush managed to finally close out the match, 15-13, for the Ephs' first singles point of the afternoon.
Inspired by her teammate's incredible effort in the match-tiebreaker on Court 1, Cancio demonstrated similar heroics on Court 5, with a match-tiebreaker win of her own over Kuosman. The Eph junior suffered a first-set setback, after succumbing to the Athena senior 7-5, but came roaring back in the second with a 6-3 score line to force a match-tiebreaker, which mercifully required fewer points to determine a winner than the one Bush and Scott battled out on Court 1. Cancio wrapped things up in just 16 points, 10-6, to win the Ephs their third point of the afternoon.
With the chance to make it four for the Ephs, Atkinson only just missed out on a win of her own at the number four position. She and her opponent, Jessie Cruz, played a marathon first set that ultimately required a 6-all tiebreaker. The normal number of points, however, would not be enough, as the two were level at 6-all, 7-all, and 8-all, when Cruz finally fashioned herself an advantage, sneaking the next two points to claim the first set. The second set wasn't quite as close, but it was by no means an easy stroll for the Athena second-year, forced to grind out a 6-4 margin of victory to bring the dual to its conclusion, 6-3 in favor of the home team.
"CMS played great today and competitively they didn't give us anything," praised Eph head coach Alison Swain of her team's opposition on Saturday, before she went on to also praise her own players for their competitive spirit in the match. "We really earned the 3 points we got as a team, and will use the match today as motivation going forward."
The Ephs will have a few days to reflect on their loss and use it as motivation going forward, before they return to action against the other Claremont outfit in six days' time, as they face off against Pomona-Pitzer on Friday afternoon. That dual is set to get going at 4 PM PDT.
CMS 6, Williams 3
- Bush, Leah (WILLIAMS) def. Scott, Kyla (CMS) 6-4, 4-6, 1-0(13)
- Tan, Nicole (CMS) def. Myong, Sydney (WILLIAMS) 6-1, 6-2
- Allen, Catherine (CMS) def. Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) 6-1, 6-4
- Cruz, Jessie (CMS) def. Atkinson, Hannah (WILLIAMS) 7-6(8), 6-4
- Cancio, Julia (WILLIAMS) def. Kuosman, Katie (CMS) 5-7, 6-3, 1-0(6)
- Brown, Lindsay (CMS) def. Henderson, Chloe (WILLIAMS) 6-3, 6-0
- Brown, Lindsay/Tan, Nicole (CMS) def. Atkinson, Hannah/Henderson, Chloe (WILLIAMS) 8-2
- Allen, Catherine/Kuosman, Katie (CMS) def. Bush, Leah/Gancayco, Mia (WILLIAMS) 8-1
- Cancio, Julia/Zheng, Emily (WILLIAMS) def. Scott, Kyla/Shea, Madison (CMS) 8-5
Order of Finish:
Doubles – 2, 1, 3
Singles – 6, 3, 2, 1, 5, 4
Williams: 6-3, nationally ranked #2, regionally ranked #1 (Northeast)
CMS: 13-0, nationally ranked #5, regionally ranked #1 (West)