TEMPLE, Texas - The Whitman women's tennis team grabbed an early lead here Saturday against Trinity, taking two of three doubles decisions. The Tigers, ranked No. 13 nationally in NCAA Division III, fought back in singles to even the score at 4-4.
The final outcome was left to No. 6 singles, where Trinity's Stephanie Williamson outlasted Whitman's Maddy Webster 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
"Maddy played really well in the second set, but her opponent made some great shots and got the momentum back in the third set," Whitman coach John Hein said. "From start to finish, this was a great match. It was college tennis at its best. Two good teams tied at 4-4 with the last singles match going to a third set."
Trinity, ranked No. 2 in the West Region, improved to 8-3 on the season. For Whitman, the setback broke an 11-match winning streak and left the Missionaries at 11-3 on the season.
"This was definitely the best match we've played this season," Hein said. "Trinity edged us today, but we know we're right there with them. We know we're capable of beating if we play as well as we did today."
Whitman, ranked No. 10 in the West Region, finished its Spring Break trip with a 4-1 record. One of those victories was a 6-3 triumph over No. 8 UT-Tyler.
Whitman seized command in doubles, winning in both the No. 1 and No. 2 slots.
Junior Alyssa Roberg and first-year teammate Courtney Lawless, ranked No. 4 in the West Region in doubles, attacked opponents Mackenzie Knopp and Thavindra Ekanayake and rolled to a quick 8-2 victory.
"Alyssa and Courtney brought so much energy to the start of that match," Hein said. "They were fired up."
Senior Emily Rolston and first-year teammate Morgan Lawless bolted to a quick 3-0 lead at No. 2 doubles, thanks to a pair of service breaks against opponents Katie Griffith and Kylie Hornbeck. The Missionary twosome eventually finished an 8-3 win.
"Emily and Morgan have had such a good week in doubles," Hein said. "They are playing at a high level right now."
Webster and sophomore Hannah Palkowitz came up short in a back-and-forth match at No. 3 doubles. After Trinity's Williamson and Kassie Seger jumped to a 5-2 lead, Webster and Palkowitz rallied to draw within 6-5 before Williamson and Seger picked off the next two games to win 8-5.
That trimmed Whitman's early lead in the team scoring to 2-1, and the two teams split the first four decisions in singles to leave the Missionaries in front 4-3.
Roberg, who holds a No. 3 regional ranking in singles, outplayed No. 2 Knopp by a 6-3, 6-1 count in the featured match at No. 1 singles. "That was a closer match than it looks," Hein said. "They played a lot of long deuce games. Alyssa hit enough great shots to win more of those close games than she lost."
Courtney Lawless shot past Griffith 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 singles.
Ekanayake and Horbeck countered with wins for the Tigers. Ekanayake scrambled past Morgan Lawless 6-3, 6-1 in the third singles slot, and Hornbeck held off junior Kate Kunkel-Patterson 7-5, 6-1 at the fourth spot.
Trinity's Lavinia Bandandi then evened the team score at 4-4 with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Rolston at No. 5 singles. "That match was a lot like the match at No. 1 singles," Hein said. "There were a lot of great points on both sides with a lot of games going to deuce."
Whitman returns to Northwest Conference play Saturday against Whitworth in Spokane. Both teams are 6-1 in the NWC and tied for second.