MADISON, Wis. – Anne Lombardi’s (So./Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) thrilling super-tiebreaker victory not only kept her individual win streak alive but also provided the deciding team point as the No. 29 Carleton College women’s tennis team defeated perennial conference power No. 22 Gustavus Adolphus College, 5-4, in a non-conference tussle. This is the Knights’ first triumph over Gustavus since April 25, 1988, a span of nearly 24 years.
While this non-conference match does not count toward the MIAC standings, the outcome is no less impressive. The Gusties have won 20 consecutive MIAC regular-season crowns and all five MIAC Playoff titles. According to the Gustavus website, the team has won its last 209 regular-season conference dual matches dating back to 1990.
“This is a very special moment for Carleton tennis. I couldn’t be more proud of our team’s performance today,” said Carleton College head coach Luciano Battaglini, the 2011 ITA National Coach-of-the-Year.
“We handled the pressure well today. We were tough when we had to. We didn’t get down on ourselves too much. We played just a little bit better during the most important points in the match. A great, great day for us.”
The two nationally-ranked teams were participating in the Midwest Invitational, where the nine-team field included many of the top programs from across the central region, including six nationally-ranked squads.
Carleton grabbed the early lead by prevailing in two of the three doubles matches. Lombardi and Bridget Doyle (Jr./Mendota Heights, Minn./Visitation) posted an impressive 8-2 triumph at second doubles, improving to 6-0 as a tandem this season. The duo of Katherine Greenberg (So./St. Louis, Mo./Clayton) and Molly Hemes (So./Green Bay, Wis./Preble) notched the other victory by an 8-6 score.
The team competition remained tight throughout the singles portion of the match. Gustavus picked up victories at fifth and sixth singles, while Carleton countered with triumphs by Kathryn Schmidt (Sr./Hopkins, Minn./Hopkins) and Erin Gudul (Sr./North Oaks, Minn./Mounds View) at the first and fourth spots. Schmidt, the third-ranked player in the central region, beat her third regionally-ranked opponent of the weekend as she bested No. 16 Alex Erickson, 6-1 and 6-2. Gudul continued her impressive play with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 win.
Doyle matched up in a tough second singles contest against Megan Gaard, with the Gustie senior recording a 6-4, 6-4 victory.
That left the match tied 4-4 with the third singles result to still be played out. Lombardi won the opening set by a convincing 6-0 margin only to have her opponent Laurel Krebsbach, ranked No. 20 in the region, even things up with a 6-4 victory in the second set. It’s fitting that a meeting between the top two programs in the MIAC over the last several years should come down to a super tiebreaker. And this time, Lombardi closed out the victory by a 10-6 margin.
“I want to congratulate the Gustavus coaching staff and team. They always fight hard. They’ve created a huge tradition over the years,” said Battaglini. “It was fun to compete with them at the same level today.
“We’re looking forward to finishing the season strong. There are a lot of tough matches ahead. I very, very proud of the way we played all weekend.”
Carleton and UW-Whitewater were slated to play on Saturday afternoon but since the programs met two weeks ago during spring break, the coaching staffs elected to travel back to their respective campuses a little earlier.
The Knights will host St. Olaf College on Thursday, April 12 at 4:30 p.m. Carleton has a total of five matches remaining in the regular season, including an April 29 re-match at Gustavus.