The Oglethorpe women's tennis team secured the best-ever conference finish in its Division III history Saturday afternoon, as they pulled out a hard-fought 6-3 victory over Birmingham-Southern to secure sole possession of third place in the SAA. The Stormy Petrels secured the victory with a series of wins in extremely tight matches on Saturday, improving their overall record to 12-5 and their conference mark to 5-2.
With a 3-0 lead headed to the singles portion of the proceedings, the Petrels found themselves in a series of incredibly tight matches. After sophomore Shannon Cruz fell 7-5, 6-4 at No. 3, the Petrels got to within a single victory of clinching the day when freshman Taylor Cranford won 7-5, 6-4 at No. 4. That brought the dual match down to a series of three 3-set matches involving junior Caroline Johnson at No. 1 singles, freshman Hannah Dattilo at No. 2, and senior Ingrid Wilcox at No. 5.
The Petrels needed just one of those three matches to go their way to clinch the day, and Dattilo came up with the clinching point with a comeback victory. She lost the first set 6-4, but roared back with a 6-0 victory in the second set, then clinched the dual match with a 6-3 win in the third set. Senior Ingrid Wilcox added the sixth point after being honored during Senior Day festivities before the match. She outlasted her opponent 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 for a huge win. Meanwhile, Johnson found herself locked in a battle with Carlee Petro, the 42nd-ranked player in the nation. She fought back with a 6-3 win in the second set after falling 7-5 in the first, but Petro was able to close out the match with a 6-3 win in the third.
In doubles, Johnson and Dattilo delivered a massive 7-0 win over Petro and Emily Whitlock in the match's tiebreaker, delivering a 3-0 lead for the Petrels headed into singles. That followed a couple of 8-6 wins in the Nos. 2 and 3 matches, with Cruz and Cranford earning the former victory, and Wilcox and junior Halley Sickling pulling down the latter.
Sophomore Delaney Abood also was involved in a 3-set match at No. 6, though a 10-point tiebreaker was played in lieu of the third since the dual match was already decided. She fell 6-2 in the opening set, but came back with a 7-4 tiebreaker win in the second set to force the 10-point tiebreaker. She eventually fell 10-8 in a highly-competitive tiebreak, bringing the match to its final 6-3 scoreline.
"As I've been all year long, I'm extremely proud of the way this team played today!" said Oglethorpe head coach Peter Howell. "This was an incredible match, with every single matchup either going three sets or a highly-competitive two sets, and the doubles matches all were decided by a 2-game margin at most. We made some history today, and all season long, with the best-ever conference finish in the program's history. We're all very proud of that, and we'll look to represent ourselves and the school well at the SAA Tournament next week."
The Petrels now get set for the SAA Tournament, which will take place at Burns Park Tennis Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas, next weekend. They'll hold down the No. 3 seed, and will begin against No. 6 seed Berry at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Friday.