WALLA WALLA — Something had to give Saturday afternoon when No. 27 nationally-ranked Whitman faced Whitworth in a Northwest Conference women’s tennis match.
Both teams entered the contest with unblemished league records. The Missionaries, rated No. 4 in the latest NCAA Division III West Region poll, were 8-0 and the Pirates stood at 9-0.
With the inside track to the conference title hanging in the balance, and despite a 20-minute rain delay that forced action from the outdoor courts to the Bratton Tennis Center, Whitman delighted alumni, families and friends in attendance with a 9-0 blanking of the Bucs.
The Missionaries edged above the .500 mark with the win in its regular-season home finale and are 11-10 overall. Whitworth is now 11-4.
“I’m so happy for the team,” Whitman coach John Hein said. “We know how hard we’ve worked and we’ve improved so much. The whole team has really come together.
“To make a statement like that is a testament to those attributes,” he added.
Whitman’s three doubles victories each had their own identity — one was close, another was a crusher and the most lopsided affair took on a conquering quality.
Erin Bell and Katrina Allick fought their way to an 8-6 victory in No. 2 doubles, Courtney Lawless and Maddy Webster took an 8-3 decision at No. 1 and Jenna Dobrin and Hannah Palkowitz proved to be overwhelming at No. 3 by an 8-1 count.
“Katrina and I stepped up and brought the energy,” Bell said. “We finished balls well.”
“We were moving together and following through with our shots,” Allick said. “We were able to finish shots earlier.”
“It was fun for me — playing the No. 1 doubles team from fall finals,” Lawless said.
“It wasn’t our best tennis, but it was so fun,” Webster said.
Dobrin (No. 2) and Allie Wallin (No. 4) both charged back from one-set deficits to win their respective singles matches. Lawless (No. 1), Bell (No. 3), Allick (No. 5) and Webster (No. 6) all won in straight sets.
“Whitworth is a great team,” Lawless said. “It was nice to get out there and work for it. I love those matches.”
“I’m really thrilled,” Dobrin said. “Our support and hard work came together. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but our being united, intense and focused got us the win today.”
“I did what I had to do to get through it,” said Bell, who excelled despite an illness. “We brought our stuff, took care of business, and played our brand of tennis.”
The day was especially gratifying for Wallin, who had both family members including her sister Hannah, who plays for Whitworth, cheering her on in the stands
“I played my sister’s doubles partner,” Wallin said. “I was not feeling it in the first set.
“Jenna was playing next to me,” Wallin said. “She helped me a lot because she was fighting so hard — so I wanted to fight hard.”
Whitman ends its regular season with three NWC road matches next weekend. The Missionaries play Linfield on Friday at 4 p.m., and Willamette (9:30 a.m.) and Pacific (3 p.m.) on Saturday.