ST. PETER, Minn. – Two of the longest win streaks in collegiate tennis history are over, and there’s a new champion in the MIAC.
In the winner-take-all regular-season finale—with the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title on the line—the Carleton College women’s tennis team defeated 20-time defending champion Gustavus Adolphus College, 5-4. The Knights improved to 16-5 on the season and concluded the conference slate with a perfect 10-0 ledger.
This is Carleton’s fourth MIAC title and its first since winning three straight from 1985-87. The Knights also snapped the Gusties’ win streak of 214 consecutive regular-season conference matches, a streak that dates back to 1991, the same year someone other than Gustavus captured the conference crown.
“It was another special situation this season, this time competing for the MIAC regular-season title,” said Carleton head coach Luciano Battaglini. “We knew going in it was going to be a close match, and if we played well, we’d have chances to win.
“I’ve got to congratulate the Gustavus team. They have built a huge tradition through the years. Who knows if it’s possible for anyone to do that again? They fought and played as hard as they could.”
Ever since Battaglini took over the reigns of the Carleton program in 2007, the Knights—currently ranked No. 24 in the nation—have been gaining ground on the Gusties. Earlier this month, Carleton recorded its first victory over Gustavus—albeit in a non-conference match at the Midwest Invitational—in nearly 24 years. That was also a 5-4 decision.
“Winning and losing is not the priority of our program,” Battaglini said. “Learning to handle yourself in pressure situations is the more important part. We’ve been talking about handling emotions, how to compete and be respectful.”
Katherine Greenberg (So./St. Louis, Mo./Clayton) and Molly Hemes (So./Green Bay, Wis./Preble) captured Carleton’s first point in the team standings with a 9-7 win at third doubles. The Gusties tied things up as Megan Born and Alex Erickson defeated Anne Lombardi (So./Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) and Bridget Doyle (Jr./Mendota Heights, Minn./Visitation) by a 9-8 (10-4) score at the second spot.
The Knights pulled back in front when the central region’s No. 10-ranked tandem of Kathryn Schmidt (Sr./Hopkins, Minn./Hopkins) and Erin Gudul (Sr./North Oaks, Minn./Mounds View) avenged an April 7 setback to No. 9 Megan Gaard and Laurel Krebsbach with an 8-6 win over at first doubles.
Hemes extended Carleton’s lead to 3-1 lead in the team competition with her straight-set triumph at fifth singles where she defeated Mallory Shellum 6-2 and 6-3. “Molly was a key win for us. She played perfectly strategically and executed,” Battaglini said. “She didn’t give her opponent many chances to get going.”
The defending champs closed the gap with a 6-1, 6-4 victory at sixth singles as Sophie Horton prevailed over Greenberg, but Schmidt, ranked No. 3 among central region singles players, posted a 6-3 and 6-4 win over No. 16 Erickson to give the Knights a two-point advantage once again and inch Carleton closer to the team title.
Schmidt is now 37-1 all-time in singles during conference matches and 32-1 when teaming with Gudul in doubles against MIAC opponents. “Kathryn was a champ today. When people play her they have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. She handled the pressure,” Battaglini said.
The final three singles matches all headed to super tiebreakers and the MIAC title hinged on the outcome. With a sweep, Gustavus would claim yet another title. The hosts notched the victory at fourth singles when Megan Born edged Gudul 2-6, 6-4 and 12-10 to make the match score 4-3.
Just as she did when the same squads faced off three weeks ago, Lombardi tallied the deciding point by beating Krebsbach. This time she rallied from a set down to win 4-6, 6-2 and 10-4.
“This was by far the strongest mental match Anne had all year,” Battaglini said. “She didn’t have a great first set, as her opponent played well. Today, Anne learned to focus on herself and played awesome in the second set and the tiebreaker. She played smart.”
Gaard, ranked No. 20, won at second singles in another super-tiebreaker, defeating No. 21 Doyle, 6-3, 5-7, and 10-6.
“This was obviously a special day, but we’re already focused on Saturday,” said Battaglini. “Everybody needs to keep progressing. It’s going to be an exciting conference tournament.”
The Knights will be the top seed in next weekend’s six-team MIAC Playoffs and will play the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 5.