Women's Tennis Wins Regional, Advances to NCAA Sweet 16

INSTITUTE, W.Va. – After years of knocking on the door the WVSU women's tennis team finally knocked it down Sunday, April 29.

Over the past 10 years the Yellow Jackets had qualified for the NCAA tournament only to be beaten out in regional play. The last five years in the regional championship match.

They qualified for an 11th time this year but for the first time the Jackets put together a strong enough resume to be selected to host the two-day event.

Playing in front of hometown fans at Coonskin Park WVSU defeated Shaw 5-0 Saturday and then staged a hard fought comeback to beat Mercyhurst 5-4 for the NCAA Atlantic Region 2 championship.

"This was one of the goals I set when I took over the program 15 years ago," WVSU Head Coach John Simms said. "To finally get it done incredible."

The win sends the Yellow Jackets to the round of 16, or "Sweet16", of the NCAA Tournament May 8-11 in Surprise, Arizona. The equivalent of basketball's Final Four.

That makes the Jackets the first women's tennis team to advance that far.

The breakthrough victory did not come easy.

WVSU fell behind 2-1 after doubles play with the #1 doubles pair of Nina Dillwald and Kierstin Hensley winning 8-3.

Hensley evened the tally at 2-2 with a dominant 6-2, 6-0 win at #2 singles. Junior Kayla McKnight made it 3-2 in favor of the Yellow Jackets with a 6-2, 6-1 win at fifth singles.

But Mercyhurst took the lead back with wins at #1 and #4 singles.

That meant WVSU had to win both remaining courts to advance.

First, freshman Nika Tadic won 6-3, 7-6 at #6 singles, recovering from a 5-6 deficit in the second set, to tie up the match score at 4-4.

That left the Jackets fate on the racket of the team's lone senior, Dillwald.

After winning the first set 7-5 she dropped the second 6-4 just as Tadic finished.

Things looked bleak for the Yellow Jackets in the early going in the third set. After losing the last two games of set two Dillwald fell behind 3-1 and had to have her back treated for soreness by the trainer twice.

But gradually she climbed back into the match. After finally tying the set at 3-3 after a very long game Dillwald found another gear and lost just three points in the next three games to close out the match.

"That was as good an effort as you are going to see," Simms said. "This program and team are known for their fighting spirit and that was a great example of why that is."

Two-time conference Player of the Year Laura Isbey and freshmen Hanna Kontsavaya, Sydney Miller, and Grazielle Pretorotto make up the balance of the roster.

"Everyone has made a contribution this year," said Simms. "It is just a great group."

WVSU is now 16-6 on the year.
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