The Bridgewater State University women’s tennis team has made history.
For the first time in program history, the Lady Bears went undefeated with a 14-0 record and went on to capture the Little East Conference (LEC) Tournament championship on Saturday with a 5-0 win over Rhode Island College.
With the win, Bridgewater State advances to the NCAA Division III Tournament in the spring for the second straight season and for the third time in four years.
“We played well today, everyone brought their game,” said senior co-captain Lauren Hopp. “My biggest strategy has always been my heart, and I felt like this year the team played that tactic too.”
In the title match, the Lady Bears received strong play from their doubles teams to get off to a 3-0 lead. Sophomore Alison Vautrin and junior Rachael Eramo won 8-3 at third doubles, senior Jackie McGuirk and and junior Melissa Flynn won 8-0 at second doubles, and Hopp and senior Jenna Williamson posted a 8-4 win at first singles.
McGuirk and Hopp captured wins in singles play to claim the title for Bridgewater State.
“My expectation this year as a new coach, foremost, was to bring the team together,” said Bears’ head coach John Nestel, who took over the team after former head coach Barry Gorman resigned just prior to the season. “Our team acquired a lot of new skills and every single player has improved. I could not have asked for more. We just want to play our best tennis, winning comes after.”
McGuirk, a transfer from UNC Asheville, was perhaps one of the biggest surprises this year. McGuirk posted a 12-1 singles and 14-2 doubles mark this season, and her efforts in the postseason earned her the LEC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
McGuirk said she likes to get her opponent of out their comfort zone and then take advantage of them from there, which she did all season long.
Williamson continued to to her historic career in the postseason, as she captured a win at first singles in the Lady Bears’ 5-0 win over Worcester State University in the semifinal round to improve to 38-0 in her career in the LEC and 51-5 in her career overall.
Williamson’s match in the championship went unfinished when the Bears took the 5-0 advantage which gave them the win, guaranteeing Williamson would remain undefeated in her LEC career.
But challenges still lie ahead. Bridgewater State is now going to the NCAA Tournament, which will not start until the spring in mid-May.
“Our goal is to be as solid as we were this year,” Nestel said. “For us, it is harder, as we are coming out of winter and it is not our main season. A lot of teams played their matches already. You can see that we won 5-0 today, but it was still hard work. If everyone contributes to the team, I think we have a good chance.”
Tamas Bodrog is a Comment contributor. Editor-In-Chief Greg Dudek edited this story. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.