The Oglethorpe women's tennis team split their two SAA matches on Senior Day Sunday at the Downing Howell Courts, defeating regionally-ranked Centre 5-4 in the morning to secure their third consecutive conference victory before falling to No. 10 Sewanee 9-0 in the afternoon. The results improved the Stormy Petrels to 11-9 overall and 3-4 in conference play to round out the regular season, good enough for a fifth-place tie, their best-ever SAA finish.
The Petrels began their match against the Colonels with a very solid effort in doubles play, taking two of the three matches to build a 2-1 lead. Sophomore Caroline Johnson and senior Katherine Walker took a highly competitive No. 1 match 8-6, while freshman Shannon Cruz and sophomore Halley Sickling were locked in a tough match of their own that they also won by an 8-6 scoreline. Junior Ingrid Wilcox and senior MaryAnne Hafen fell 8-2 at No. 3, but the Petrels had their lead.
Centre mounted a rally in the singles portion. They defeated Johnson 6-3, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, and Hafen suffered a similar fate at No. 5, falling 6-1, 6-4. Cruz answered with a victory at No. 2, though, taking down her match 6-0, 6-3 to tie the dual match, 3-3. The Petrels took a 4-3 lead when Wilcox dominated her opponent in the second set after winning a highly-competitive tiebreaker in the first, 7-6 (5), 6-1.
The Petrels needed just one victory from the remaining two matches, both of which headed to third sets. After a dominating second set to tie the match, Sickling fell 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 at No. 6, bringing everything down to the No. 3 match, which featured senior Katherine Walker, playing her final competitive match on the Howell Courts. After a 7-5 defeat in the first set, she found herself down 4-1 in the second. However, she came roaring back and won five games in a row to win the set, then continued that stretch to encompass 11 of the match's final 14 games to take the third, as well. She clinched the dual match with an impressive 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win.
The Petrels found themselves in tough later in the day against No. 10 Sewanee and fell 9-0, but the result of the two matches earned the Petrels a fifth-place tie in conference play.
The 3-4 conference record serves as the program's best mark in the SAA era, as well as their best finish in the conference standings.
The Petrels also celebrated Senior Day before the match, honoring the careers of Emma Bernard, MaryAnne Hafen and Katherine Walker.
"I'm very proud of this team for their performance down the stretch this season," said Oglethorpe head coach Peter Howell. "This morning was a grind-it-out match for our third conference victory in a row, and we were able to pull it out. Katherine Walker winning the clincher in her final competitive home match was a great moment."
"In the afternoon, we just got beat by a fabulous Sewanee team," Howell continued, "but at the end of the day, jumping from eighth to fifth in the conference standings in one season is a tremendous accomplishment. I'm very proud of what this team has achieved already, and we'll give it our best shot against Berry in the conference tournament in two weeks."
The Petrels finish tied with Centre, but earn the No. 5 seed over the Colonels by virtue of their head-to-head victory on Sunday. Oglethorpe takes on fourth-seeded Berry, a regionally-ranked foe, in the quarterfinals of the SAA Tournament on Friday, April 29. The Vikings defeated the Petrels 5-4 on the Howell Courts in their regular season meeting.