Women’s tennis defeats defending SLIAC champ, earns top seed

Webster University freshman Lauren Hacker gets ready to hit an overhead during the Gorloks’ April 14 match against Principia College at the Webster Groves Tennis Center. PHOTO BY MACKENZIE WILDER.

The 5-0 Webster University and Principia College women’s tennis teams met on April 14 to determine the No. 1 seed for the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. Webster continued its dominance in the conference and earned the No. 1 seed by defeating Principia — last season’s SLIAC tournament champion — 7-2.

“It gave us some confidence,” freshman Marissa Lewis said. “We’re still having to go into conference thinking they could’ve just been nervous that day and we just came out on top. We just have to be on our ‘A’ game either way.”

Despite senior Paige Tungate losing at No. 1 singles, Webster won its five other singles matches against the Panthers in the match at the Webster Groves Tennis Center.

“Paige has played No. 1 for us and she gets the toughest girls on the other teams,” Webster coach Michael Siener said. “She’s fared well some matches, but other matches she hasn’t fared well. It’s a collection of our entire nine girls that all are good and can win at multiple positions. That’s why we’ve been successful.

“This is a great team that we have because they can all play at different spots. It’s really been a team effort.”

Paige Tungate and senior Allison Tungate won at No. 1 doubles 8-3, and Lewis and freshman Kathleen Kennedy won at No. 3 doubles by the same score.

Allison Tungate and Lewis were the only two Gorloks to win in both doubles and singles. Allison Tungate won at No. 2 singles 6-0, 6-0 and Lewis won at No. 3 singles 6-1, 6-0.

Webster’s 13-match winning streak ended April 17 when the Gorloks lost 9-0 to Washington University, the No. 11-ranked team in the country.

Webster goes into the SLIAC tournament coming off the loss to WashU, but the loss against a nationally-ranked team can serve as a tuneup for the Gorloks.

“Coming into it, I was kind of skeptical at first,” Allison Tungate said. “Playing WashU, we knew they were going to be tough. We wanted our confidence to be at an all-time high heading into the tournament. But at the same time, all of our doubles teams competed really well. I’d say that’s kind of our weakness. The fact that all of us competed fairly well against WashU’s doubles teams, that has really built our confidence up.”

After sweeping the conference 6-0, Webster (17-2 overall) heads into the April 20 and 21 SLIAC tournament at the Dwight Davis Tennis Center as the heavy favorite.

“We’re definitely not overconfident,” Lewis said. “We look at it as all our hard work is paying off. We do know where confidence and cockiness comes in, and we’re right at the point where it’s just enough confidence to know that we can play good tennis.”

As a senior, Allison Tungate has previously played in three SLIAC tournaments. It will be the first conference tournament for several Webster freshmen.

“A lot of the girls are nervous, and I told them, ‘It’s OK to be nervous, but don’t play to not lose,’” Allison Tungate said. “We need to play to win and stick to what we’ve been doing all year. We’ve been successful. Why change or do something different that’s been working?”

The Gorloks ran over their SLIAC opponents in the regular season, so Siener said they will have a target on their backs in the conference tournament.

“If they just play solid and be themselves, we’re going to win,” Siener said. “Nobody has got to play extraordinary. We don’t need that. Everybody has just got to play their game. It’s the other schools that will have to really raise their level of play.

“We do have a target. They’ll all be gunning for us. They’ll all be playing hard, and we’ll have to match that intensity.”

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