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Knights Claim MIAC Playoff Title, NCAA Bid in Toppling Gusties

May 5, 2012 at 8:07 pm
2012 MIAC Playoffs champions
The Carleton women's tennis team shows off the hardware after a hard-fought victory over Gustavus Adolphus at the 2012 MIAC Playoffs. The win earned the Knights a spot in the 2012 NCAA Championships.
Photo: Dave Pape

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Photo gallery by Dave Pape | Photo gallery by Shawn Jiang

ST. PETER, Minn.--A week ago, the Carleton College women's tennis team ended Gustavus Adolphus College's two-decade reign over the MIAC regular season by upending the Gusties and claiming the MIAC's regular-season championship.

The Knights continued that trend, and beat Gustavus for the third time this season, in the MIAC Playoff Finals to earn the team title and clinch the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, 5-3. Kathryn Schmidt (Sr./Hopkins, Minn.) at first singles and Molly Hemes (So./Green Bay/Preble) at fifth singles provided the final two points to clinch the championship for Carleton (18-5).

"It was a very tight match, probably the tightest of the three we played against them this season," said Carleton head coach Luciano Battaglini. "It comes down to heart, self belief, the inner desire you have. Luckily today, we came out ahead."

The Gusties, long the gold standard for small-college tennis in the upper Midwest, pushed the Knights to the limit. As in the first two victories over Gustavus, the Knights grabbed a 2-1 lead after doubles play. For the second straight time, Schmidt and partner Erin Gudul (Sr./North Oaks, Minn./Mounds View), ranked sixth in the region, edged the partnership of Megan Gaard and Laurel Krebsbach, 8-4. Bridget Doyle (Jr./Mendota Heights, Minn./Visitation) and Anne Lombardi (So./Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) avenged last week's setback to defeat Alex Erickson and Megan Born, 8-6, while the Gusties' Annie Mahoney and Mary Roop rallied past Hemes and Katherine Greenberg (St. Louis, Mo./Clayton), 9-7, at third doubles.

With the action moving to singles play, both teams grabbed an additional quick point. Gaard beat Doyle in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1, while Carleton countered with a Gudul straight-sets win over Born, 6-4, 6-1. Gudul had narrowly lost on a super tiebreaker to Born in last week's match-up. 

The rest of the four singles matches, however, were hotly contested, befitting of a title match. All four went to a third set. Gustavus pulled level with its third point when Krebsbach downed Lombardi, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. The Knights slowly but surely gained control of the final three matches on the court, however, and picked up the match's fourth point when Schmidt rallied after dropping the first set to beat Erickson 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 at first singles. Hemes followed with the championship-clinching point, dropping Roop at fifth singles, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. The final match between Greenberg and Sophie Horton wasn't completed since the team result was decided, but Greenberg was leading 4-1 in the third set.

"I just really wanted our team to be able to have the chance to beat Gustavus and go to nationals," said Schmidt. "We had some chances last year and played a little bit tight. This year was so exciting and relieving that everybody came out and fought. This is a great moment in my senior year, and I’m so proud of everybody."

Carleton ends Gustavus' five-year run at the conference tournament, which started in 2007. The Knights will make their fourth trip as a team to the NCAA Championships, but will do so for the first time as the MIAC's automatic qualifier. Carleton previously participated in the national tournament in 1995, 1996, and 2005.

"I think that’s where the team support comes in," explained Hemes. "At the end of it, my team was lined up right next to my court. They were the ones motivating me to finish the match. Without that, I’m sure that result would not have been as good today. It kept me going because I knew my teammates were all fighting and all supporting each other, too."